Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Sunshine Coast Pelagic November 2018

Providence Petrel

We departed Mooloolaba Marina at 6.25am on Sunday November 11, 2018 under sunny skies with an unusually cool south-easterly (for this time of year) that kept up for the rest of the day at 10-15 knots. As we headed east we encountered a few small groups of migrating Short-tailed Shearwaters heading south and several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters before coming across an unusual congregation of four Pomarine Jaegers over the Barwon Banks.

Pomarine Jaeger flock
We stopped over the shelf at 9am in 600m, 32 nautical miles offshore (26.42.645 S; 153.42.689E), where we began laying a berley trail. A mild swell of about a metre and a small chop in the sea with steady winds made for pleasant conditions. We saw our first Providence Petrel shortly before stopping and quite a few were about out there, although it is getting late in the year for this species.

Providence Petrel
We had a new berley mix with extra tuna oil and finely chopped chicken skins that float well. We soon had a good slick behind the boat which was checked out by the odd Wilson's Storm-Petrel. The birds generally however did not appear to be hungry.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel
We saw more Short-tailed and Wedge-tailed shearwaters as the morning progressed and a Sooty Tern turned up.

Short-tailed Shearwater

Sooty Tern
We had just two Tahiti Petrels for the day, a surprisingly small tally. Also of interest was the very small number of Crested Terns.

Tahiti Petrel
Another Pomarine Jaeger showed before we turned around at 12.30pm after drifting 4 nautical miles to 350m. We stopped a couple of times on the way back to try our luck. We had a couple of Brown Boobies perched atop a trawler and a single Flesh-footed Shearwater, along with more Short-tailed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. We returned to the marina at 3.25pm.

Brown Booby
PARTICIPANTS: Paul Beer (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand), Greg Roberts (organiser),
Louis Backstrom, Margie Baker, Tony Baker, Jane Cooksley, Jo Culican, Robyn Duff, Cecile Espigole, Paul Fraser, Richard Fuller, John Gunning, Nikolas Haass, Christian Haass, James Hermans, Andy Jensen, Sel Kerans, James Martin, William Price, Trevor Ross, Esme Ross, Raja Stephenson, Carolyn Stewart.

SPECIES: TOTAL (Maximum at one time)

Providence Petrel 25 (4)
Tahiti Petrel 2 (1)
Short-tailed Shearwater 80 (20)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 30 (3)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1 (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 12 (3)
Brown Booby 2 (2)
Pomarine Jaeger 5 (1)
Sooty Tern 1 (1)
Crested Term 2 (1)

Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin 3 (2)

Monday, 5 November 2018

WESTERN AUSTRALIA PART 3 – Cheynes Beach to Perth: Honey Possum , Red-eared Firetail, Rock Parrot & three mega-skulkers

After checking out Corakerup Reserve we headed west to Cheynes Beach for a 3-night stay in a chalet in the caravan park. The site is the best known hotspot for three notoriously skulky south-west WA endemics – Western Whipbird, Western Bristlebird and Noisy Scrubbird. We were fortunate to see the whipbird at Corakerup because we failed to see or hear it at all at Cheynes Beach, unlike my last visit there. The coastal scenery was outstanding as usual and the wildflowers put on probably the best display of the trip.

Cheynes Beach wildflowers

Cheynes Beach
The second of the skulkers, Western Bristlebird, is generally the easiest to see. We saw a pair well in Arpenteur Nature Reserve and heard it in three other spots.

Western Bristlebird

Western Bristlebird
We heard Noisy Scrubbird at four sites – two each in Arpenteur and the adjoining Waychinnicup National Park. The usual way to see this bird is to watch the seaside tracks that cut through its territories in the hope one will cross fleetingly. We did this in the late afternoon and saw three crossing within an hour or so, though none offered a photographic opportunity. (I saw my first Noisy Scrubbird the same way in 1979 at Two Peoples Bay, but had to wait two days for one to cross the track!)

Scrubbird vigil
The formidable King's Skink was another regular track-crosser.

Star of the trip was a Honey Possum spotted late one cool morning by Lorna feeding on eucalypt blossums about 1km from the caravan park. I'd long wanted to see this species and just the previous night had wandered about for a couple of hours, checking out numerous flowering banksia flowers without success. The possum fed quietly for about five minutes before quietly disappearing into the foliage. There was no sign of the Western Pygmy Possum that I saw so well in the caravan park during my last visit.

Honey Possum
The caravan park is an excellent place to stay, with easy walking access to all the targets.

 Around our cabin we had a pair of Red-eared Firetail in residence with fully fledged young. This species can be tricky so it was good to nail it.

Red-eared Firetail

Red-eared Firetail
Around the cabin were other good birds including Western Spinetail, White-breasted Robin and Red-winged Fairy-wren.

Western Spinebill

White-breasted Robin

Red-winged Fairy-wren female
Red-winged Fairy-wren male
Brush Bronzewing and Common Bronzewing were equally numerous in the area.

Brush Bronzewing
We found the distinctive western race of Southern Emu-wren several times in the heath.

Southern Emu-wren
After leaving Cheynes Beach we headed north, returning to Stirling Ranges National Park but this time the southern entrance. Here we finally connected with Western (Rufous) Fieldwren which we'd missed in several spots where I'd seen it previously; the bird is evidently in decline.

Western (Rufous) Fieldwren
We had an immature Swamp Harrier close to the road.

Swamp Harrier
We headed south to Albany's Middleton Beach and then west to Conspicuous Cliff, looking for Rock Parrot unsuccessfully in both places. We had beach-washed Flesh-footed Shearwaters on Middleton Beach and had seen a few off Cheynes Beach earlier. Our next destination for an overnight stay was Nornalup. We had pretty well cleaned up the south-west targets so this was a scenic visit to take in the magnificent karri/tingle forests and countless kangaroo paw and other wildflowers in full bloom.

Wildflowers near Nornalup
We decided to take the back roads north to Rocky Gully where we easily found the pastinator race of Western Corella - a potential split - just west of the town along Franklin Road.

Western Corella pastinator
Then it was on to Augusta for another overnight stay. Cape Leeuwin is flanked by the Southern Ocean to the east and the Indian Ocean to the west. The lighthouse grounds are a hotspot for Rock Parrot, the only south-west WA target we still needed. We failed in the late afternoon but sunset over the Indian Ocean was something to see.

Sunset Cape Leeuwin
Early the next morning we had Red-capped Parrot on the way to the lighthouse.

Red-capped Parrot
Then inside and outside the lighthouse grounds we found a total of 15 Rock Parrots, some of which were extremely confiding. They were busily feeding on grass seeds and many had full crops. The birds are nesting on small islands offshore currently but fly to the mainland to feed. Our parrots presumably would be returning soon to feed nestlings.

Rock Parrot

Rock Parrot 
We headed north to Bunbury and Douro Point, where a Eurasian Curlew had turned up a week earlier. The curlew has been visiting this spot for the past three summers. The track in is closed to traffic so we walked to the end of the point. It was low tide so we scanned the mudflats, finding a Eurasian Curlew with a Whimbrel in the scope distantly but the curlew flew and couldn't be relocated.

We continued on to Fremantle for the final two nights of the trip. We checked out the North Mole Lighthouse at the Swan River's entrance and saw a few Fairy Terns in breeding plumage feeding; they nest nearby in a small colony that evidently is thriving. Around Perth we visited Lakes Claremont and Herdsman, seeing plenty of ducks including several Freckled at Herdsman. We tried unsuccessfully for Australian Spotted Crake at the Baigup Wetland but Dodge and Lorna scored it the next morning after dropping me off at the airport for the flight home. Once again, thanks to Dan Mantle, Plaxy Barratt and Frank O'Connor for assistance with some sites.

Fairy Tern

Sunday, 4 November 2018

WESTERN AUSTRALIA PART 2 – Dryandra to Corakerup Reserve: Numbat, Western Shrike-tit

After leaving the Dalwallinu area we continued south through Northam to Dryandra Woodland, one of my favourite birding sites, for 3 nights in a delightful Dryandra Village Lions Club chalet. We were quickly out and about in the wildflower-festooned wandoo woodland with the south-west endemics coming thick and fast including Rufous Treecreeper, Red-capped Parrot and Western Thornbill.

Rufous Treecreeper

Dryandra Village chalet
We spotted Western Yellow Robin and the distinctive western race of Scarlet Robin.

Scarlet Robin

Western Yellow Robin
The recently split Western Whistler was surprisingly common.

Western Whistler
We had a couple of Echidna roaming about and a Yellow-footed Antechinus showed nicely.


Yellow-footed Antechinus
It wasn't close to the end of the last day that Dodge found the star – a Numbat near its entrance to a hollow log along Newell Road. I'd had just a distant, brief view of one previously so it was excellent to connect with this animal for several minutes before it disappeared into its bolt-hole.


Dodge & Lorna, Numbat-struck in the wandoo

Numbat bolt-hole
A few Carnaby's Black Cockatoos had been seen earlier as we drove through the wheatbelt but they were common in Dryandra.

Carnaby's Black Cockatoo
We were happy to have Blue-breasted Fairy-wren showing much better than at Lake Thetis earlier.

Blue-breasted Fairywren

Blue-breasted Fairywren
We tracked down a Western (Crested) Shrike-tit along the track behind the Arboretum and later heard a second pair.

Western (Crested) Shrike-tit

Western (Crested) Shrike-tit

Purple-crowned Lorikeet was surprisingly common as none were seen during my last visit to Dryandra.

Purple-crowned Lorikeet
Plenty of birds had recently finished nesting or were feeding young, like these Restless Flycatchers. Square-tailed Kite was among the raptors flying overhead.

Restless Flycatcher family

Square-tailed Kite
We moved on to Stirling Range Retreat for a 2-night stay. Once again the scenery and abundance of wildflowers did not disappoint.

Stirling Ranges

Stirling Ranges
We had several Regent Parrots along the way and quite a few were about about the resort. 

Regent Parrot
Around the place in small numbers were Elegant Parrot, which we'd also seen a few times in Dryandra, while Splendid Fairywren was plentiful.

Elegant Parrot

Splendid Fairywren
Gilbert's (Western White-naped) Honeyeater was a common visitor to the retreat's birdbaths. Purple-gaped Honeyeater and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater were tracked down in the mallee at Mt Trio.

Gilbert's Honeyeater

Purple-gaped Honeyeater
Baudin's Black Cockatoo easily outnumbered Carnaby's Black Cockatoo in a large mixed flock, with the Baudin's feeding on marri nuts.
Baudin's Black Cockatoo
A pair of Australian Little Eagle were nesting and one flew in with what appeared to be the remains of a Magpie-Lark.

Australian Little Eagle

Western Bluetongue was often crossing the roads, along with the odd Shingleback.
We left the Stirlings, heading east to the Corakerup Reserve in the hope of seeing Malleefowl as we drove the roads adjoining the reserve but dipped, encountering just a couple of mounds.

Malleefowl mound

Western Bluetongue
We did have close views of Shy Heathwren and best of all, several fleeting but solid glimpses of Western Whipbird as a pair dueted on both sides of a path off Norman Road, crossing the path several times.

Shy Heathwren