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.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Barrington Tops Looking Good

Gloucester Tops
We had a pleasant if extremely cold 6-day stay in Barrington Tops National Park in NSW, spending 2 nights at the Polblue camping ground in the northern sector of the park, and 3 nights at the Gloucester River camping ground in its southern sector.

Polblue Swamp
I once lived in the Gloucester area so know this park well. Good to be reacquainted with the extensive temperate Nothofagus and sclerophyll forests, the subalpine meadows and woodlands, and great mountain scenery.

Subzero temperatures at Polblue Swamp
Barrington Tops
 A nocturnal walk around the Polblue circuit did not end well when we were saturated by an unexpected downpour, and temperatures plummeted to 0-6 degrees in the early mornings. So it was not surprising that we didn't see Common Wombats and Tiger Quolls although we found their droppings.

We did see brumbies, and it is beyond me why the NSW National Parks authorities have not eliminated this introduced pest from what is an outstanding World Heritage-listed area.

Flame Robin
Flame Robins were out and about in the woodlands.

Rose Robin
Rose Robins were also quite common, though in denser vegetation, while a single Scarlet Robin was seen.

Beech forest
Olive Whistler is one of the avian attractions of the beech forests, though the species is typically reluctant to show itself.

Olive Whistler
Superb Lyrebirds were widespread throughout the Tops and several were foraging around the Gloucester River camping ground.

Superb Lyrebird
Superb Fairy-wren was another delightful attendant in the camping ground.

Superb Fairy-wren
A few Red-browed Treecreepers were found at Gloucester Tops but they were outnumbered by White-throated.

Red-browed Treecreeper
Also at Gloucester Tops was a nice male Satin Flycatcher. I also saw a female Satin Flycatcher in the northern sector of the park at the Manning River camping ground.
Satin Flycatcher
Another avian attraction of Gloucester Tops is Crescent Honeyeater, the species occurring here at the northern extremity of its south-east Australian range. The site is best-known for Rufous Scrubbird; I had several pairs mapped out here when I lived in the area in the early-1980s. However, the unseasonally cold weather did not let off and just two birds were heard in the Gloucester Tops area.

Crescent Honeyeater
Several Bassian Thrushes were heard and seen high up around Gloucester Tops.

Bassian Thrush
Lower down around the Gloucester River camping ground, several Russet-tailed Thrushes were calling, The bird below was giving a Russet-tailed call but looks like a Bassian Thrush. I'd welcome further input. Gloucester Tops-Gloucester River list can be found here.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Sundown National Park

Musk Lorikeet

East meets west at Queensland's Sundown National Park, where we opted for a 3-night stay in the Broadwater camping ground. Plenty of rain in recent weeks meant that this spot, like the rest of inland Australia currently, was fresh and green with loads of avian activity.

Sundown National Park
It had been many years since we had been here and much had changed. The lovely camp overlooking the banks of the Severn River was gone, replaced by a row of pokey, difficult-to-access (if you're towing a camper trailer) camping bays so loved by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

White-plumed Honeyeater
First stop en route was the outskirts of Warwick, where Musk Lorikeets were feeding in flowering Calistemons. At Sundown I checked out the road in, the open areas before the camping ground, and park trails. The river was overflowing and the ground so sodden that some vehicles were seriously bogged. White-plumed Honeyeaters were plentiful. 

Brown Treecreeper
The nice mix of coastal and inland species was evident. Torresian Crowns and Australian Ravens were here together, as were Satin and Spotted Bowerbirds; Red-winged and Australian King Parrots; and White-throated and Brown Treecreepers, the latter attending several nests. The few rosellas seen seemed to be intermediate between Pale-headed and Eastern.
Red-capped Robin
Red-capped Robin and Inland Thornbill are here at the eastern extremity of their breeding range; as far as I'm aware, they are not resident even the short distance further east at Girraween National Park, where Inland is replaced by the coastal Brown Thornbill.

Hooded Robin 
Hooded Robins were in woodland fringing the road in. 

Inland Thornbill
Absent were the Turquoise Parrots which had been common at Sundown over the winter.
Crested Shrike-tit was quite surprisingly common. 

Crested Shrike-tit
White-winged Chough and Apostlebird (both nesting) were numerous.See here for full bird list.

White-winged Chough
White-browed Babblers were side-by-side with Grey-crowned Babblers.

White-browed Babbler
Several parties of delightful Speckled Warbler were seen.

Speckled Warbler
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater is another species that occurs here at the eastern extremity of its range.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Day Roosting Marbled Frogmouths

Marbled Frogmouths on day roost

I found a pair of Marbled Frogmouths roosting during the day in Mapleton National Park, in the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The birds were huddled closely together in the subcanopy, about 5 metres from the ground in a rainforest gully close to a stream.

Marbled Frogmouths on day roost 
This cryptic bird can be difficult to see even at night, but it is rarely encountered during the day. I have  previously seen one on its daytime roost just once. The birds yesterday were not attending a nest; presumably it is a little early for nesting.

Marbled Frogmouths on day roost
This pair of frogmouths is one of about 10 that I am aware of in the Blackall Range. I tried different camera settings with these birds. A flash was used in the image above, explaining the highlighted eyes. List of birds in the park can be found here.

Great Crested Grebes
Also in the area was a pair of Great Crested Grebes on Lake Cooloolabin, where I've not seen them previously.

The first Dollarbird of the season showed yesterday close to home at Ninderry.

Yellow Albatross
Butterflies are out and about in the increasingly warm Spring weather. This Yellow Albatross was in Mapleton National Park.

Young Little Wattlebird
On the home front, the young Little Wattlebird reported earlier is doing well. It continues to be fed by its parents but is increasingly self-sufficient. Interestingly, the wattlebirds are building their second nest of the season, in a different hanging basket on our back verandah porch.

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike

A White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, a rare visitor here, has been about the garden for several weeks.

Eastern Whipbird
This Eastern Whipbird had just been attacked by a territorial Forest Kingfisher and appeared a little shell-shocked.

Double-barred Finch
A Double-barred Finch from Parklakes.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Reflecting on Campaign to Save the Conondale Range

The remarkable Gastric-brooding Frog
With all the gloom surrounding environmental concerns, it's worth recalling that some solid conservation victories are in the bag. Here in the Sunshine Coast region, two critically important wildlife habitats - the forests of the Conondale Range and the wallum heaths of Cooloola - were saved for posterity,when both had once seemed like hopeless causes.

For the record, here I am publishing, with minor editing, an interview that Ian Mackay, president of the Conondale Range Committee, did with me in 2004 about the early stages of the campaign to save the Conondales in the 1970s. That era embraced some extraordinary natural history developments including the discovery and extinction of the remarkable Gastric-brooding Frog, and the rediscovery of the Plumed (Marbled) Frogmouth; some of those moments are relived here. 

Little Yabba Creek
Talking with Greg Roberts, in March 2004, about his involvement in the early campaign to save the Conondale Range.

Ian: Greg, can you take us back those 30 or so years. What were the issues, who were the people and what was the political and conservation climate?

Greg: Our initial involvement in the Conondales was back in 1971 when we camped at Little Yabba Creek in September that year. We had a little group called the Queensland Conservation Movement, which [poet] Judith Wright helped us form. It included like-minded young people like Greg Czechura, Chris Corben, Glen Ingram, Anita Smyth and a few others. We went up there and decided essentially that weekend to get cracking on a campaign to try and save the Conondales.

So if you like that’s where it began from my perspective, effectively in September l97l. At that time in Queensland it was a real slash-and-burn mentality. There were large areas of lowland rainforest being clear-felled for hoop pine plantations. The rate of logging was high and there was little consideration being given to catchment or watercourse protection and that sort of thing. So we decided to get moving on some sort of campaign to save the Conondales.

We initially put up a small proposal to protect 250ha of vine scrub and eucalypt forest in the Little Yabba Creek area [where Charlie Moreland Park is now]. We were stunned by the biodiversity of this place. For us being keen on birds and frogs, it had an extraordinary variety of habitat and wildlife. We were in love with it. This was before Charlie Moreland Park; there was a tiny clearing beside Little Yabba Creek - nothing more, a real contrast to today. It was a magical place. The hoop pine plantations hadn’t encroached down as far as they do now. We were very distressed a couple of years later [in 1973] to find that a lot of scrub had been cleared.

Conondale Range
In 1973, the Queensland Conservation Movement put up a proposal for a l6,000ha national park over the Conondales. It was the first big park proposal. In that year also the Wildlife Research Group (Queensland) grew out of the QCM. We decided we would have more impact if we focused on wildlife conservation. That was our area of expertise and we essentially changed the name of the group to reflect this. So we had that proposal, and over the years we kept at it.

We had a reasonably intensive effort going and it culminated in 1977, by which time l was on the executive of the Queensland Conservation Council and got QCC very much behind the
campaign to save the Conondales. We put up another proposal for a national park of 31,000ha including an 8,000ha core wilderness reserve in the Peters-Booloumba creeks catchment - the first area that eventually was protected as national park.

And in that year, in 1977, we campaigned big time. We had media conferences that were well attended and I did a lot of interviews. We put out the booklet, The Conondale Range. I was secretary of the Wildlife Research Group as well as the QCC spokesperson. So we had the campaign being co-ordinated by the WRG and QCC at the same time and with the resources of QCC at our disposal, it allowed us to be very active. We met with various ministers and union leaders and put a lot of work into it. We were always doing something to try to draw attention to the area. That sums up my role because at the end of l977, l left Queensland.

Ian: That was just after the Save the Conondale Range Committee came into being.

Greg: By then you had the Save the Conondale Range Committee set up. My role was in the mid-70s... just putting the area on the map. Until the early-70s, even conservationists and naturalists hadn’t heard of the Conondale Range. So I think we had a fair degree of success in drawing the attention of people to the area in a scientific way. All the people in the Wildlife Research Group had a serious wildlife bent. Some of us were professionally inclined that way and ended up working in the Queensland Museum or elsewhere. We had a specialist interest in wildlife and just kept discovering extraordinary things in the Conondales, like interesting rainforest skinks and rare birds like the Black-breasted Button-quail and Plumed (Marbled) Frogmouth.

l found the buttonquail in the Conondales in December I973. I remember it well as it was previously not known in this area. I will never forget an evening in October 1976 when Glen Ingram and l were camped up at Beauty Spot I00 on Booloumba Creek and I heard a mysterious "gobble gobble” call coming from inside the forest. Glen was down the creek working on his Rheobatrachus frogs at the time and I went into the forest and there was a Plumed Frogmouth sitting on a vine. It was extraordinary because the bird was almost mythical at the time; it hadn’t been reliably recorded for several decades. l’m talking about the plumiferus race of the Marbled Frogmouth. Some people doubted that it even existed and then we hear this extraordinary call and there's the bird.

Marbled Frogmouth in the Conondales
Later on that night, Glen and l were sitting around the campfire and there was another one calling right next to the camp and it was right out in the open. We had birders going up there from all over Australia to try to see the thing and it’s since been found to be quite common in the area. We were absolutely mystified as to how we’d missed it previously. All those weekends we were camping up there and we’d never heard it.

So we kept on finding these fabulous creatures. For the Wildlife Research Group, it was a perfect campaign in tandem with the Cooloola campaign to protect the western catchment of the Noosa River. We had these two campaigns going simultaneously. And every other weekend we were either up in the Conondales or up at Cooloola bashing people’s ears about one or the other. It's nice to know in retrospect that largely both campaigns succeeded but l make the point that there is still a way to go. For instance, I would like to see as the next stage some of those hoop pine plantations being allowed to regenerate back into lowland rainforest. lt’s satisfying because when you look at what has been achieved, at the time we were very pessimistic. There was every indication that governments were not interested in protecting this area at all.

lan: I understand that much bigger areas were destined to become hoop pine plantation. 

Greg: (Former Queensland Labor Environment Minister) Pat Comben has mentioned that initially plantations were supposed to be more extensive than what they are now. So that's satisfying that we had some success in limiting that. It could have been a lot worse. There were times when we thought we were not going to be able to stop this; it was very depressing to see this stuff happening. That clearing at Little Yabba was particularly depressing because it was a really beautiful vine scrub and it was just all gone, but that made us quite determined and we put effort into it and ultimately that effort paid off.

It may be too late for some things. It may be too late for Coxen’s Fig Parrot, for instance. We gather from the records that it was quite an important area for them. A friend of mine swears he saw two recently in rainforest near lmbil, so possibly they are hanging on. But you need large contiguous areas of lowland rainforest for birds like that to survive.

Ian: Tell us about Rheobatrachus, the Gastric-brooding Frog.

Greg: It was David Liem who first discovered the frog at Kondalilla Falls [in the Blackall Range, in 1972]. He wasn't a member of the Wildife Research Group but was one of a number of scientists who were involved with us. Then we subsequently discovered it in the Conondales and it was found to be all through the streams in those mountain rainforests, in the high mountain streams. We didn’t know anything about its breeding biology until we had some of the frogs at home in Brisbane in a tank.

We knew it was aquatic and it was interesting from several biological perspectives, but we didn’t know about its breeding biology. One day we were at home in [the Brisbane suburb of Red Hill], in 1973, and a female frog started regurgitating baby frogs in front of our eyes. What a moment! It was extraordinary, bearing in mind that no other vertebrate animal in the world other than a few fish had been known to do this [raise their young inside the stomach].

Gastric-brooding Frog
We were just stunned; we didn’t know what was going on. We sent off some of the animals to Mike Tyler in Adelaide and the paper was written up by Glen Ingram, Chris Corben and Mike Tyler. The joumal Nature rejected the paper, thinking it was a hoax. Like the discovery of the Platypus, they just thought it was too bizarre to be true. We put that name to it, Platypus Frog, early on because it was a truly aquatic frog; it would disappear under the water for much longer than other frogs. And the paper was eventually published by the journal Science. It was one of biggest zoological discoveries in Australia, further highlighting why this area was so important. [Rheobatrachus is now referred to as the Gastric-brooding Frog.]

l went up there in 1976 with a TV crew from the ABC's Landline program. We were doing it as part of the campaign and as far as l’m aware, that was the only television footage of this frog. They were so common that we just assumed they'd always be there. Fortunately the ABC still has this in their archives because there is no other footage. It was easy to find a specimen for them to film; you looked under rocks and there they were.

Of course you had the Southern Day Frog too. They were all over the place up and down those streams, as common as could be. And it too has disappeared. Pretty ordinary looking little things but they had a lot of character. The frog was out during the day, which is a pleasant surprise for frogs. They hopped about on rocks in the open - very visible and a real feature of those upland rainforests. [Postscript: Both the Gastric-brooding Frog and the Southern Day Frog were last seen in the wild in 1979.]

Ian: Mistweed is now found in all the creeks. How was it back then?

Greg: At Beauty Spot 100 there was no mistweed. We would drive down off the Forestry Department road and camp on either side of the creek. And now there is so much invasive weed that you can't get anywhere near [those old camping spots]. 

Even after our campaign activity in the 1970s, new things tumed up. In the 1980s, Chris Corben found the Eastem Bristlebird in the Conondales. Long afier we thought the area had no more surprises to offer - we thought we had done it all - this place produces so many fantastic animals. Along comes the bristlebird, the northem-most population. And today sadly it looks as though there are only a couple of birds left. [Postcript: the bristlebird population is now believed to be extinct.]

lt’s another example of what an interesting area it is. l went interstate for a decade from then and was out of the picture. The Save the Conondale Range Committee kept things going. Greg Czechura headed it for a while and people like Margaret-Ann Stannard became involved.

Ian: The conservation history of the Conondales is like a giant relay, passing the ball from one individual to another, from one group to the next.

Greg: The initial campaigning got the ball rolling, making a good basis for future efforts. The Rheobatrachus frog was the king-pin of the campaign. At our press conferences we would have a bowl of water with 7 or 8 frogs and they would be hiding under the rocks from the TV cameras. I’d be at the back of the bowl splashing away so that they would come out and make an appearance for the cameras. 

1977 Press conference - Gastric-brooding Frogs are in the bowl
They were the centrepoint of the campaign because they were such spectacular animals. There were lots of other fabulous animals to back the campaign up like the frogmouth, Sooty Owl and all those things. lt was such a wonderful area it was difficult not to campaign for its protection. The Wildlife Research Group got the ball rolling, not just a political campaign but we spent a lot of time up there looking for things. We might be up there a couple of times a month spotlighting at night, trawling the creeks, bird-watching during the day; just finding out what was there because nobody had done that. The Forestry Department controlled the area but didn’t employ researchers or zoologists. There weren’t govemment people doing that sort of thing. We were building up a database of animals while we were campaigning up there. I think we had a few achievements in that respect.

Sooty Owl in the Conondales
Ian: And Chris Corben went on to work with the Forestry Department?

Greg: Yes, Chris ended up living up there for a couple of years in the 80s. As a result of the campaign, Forestry employed someone full-time to do the important catchment research work. That was something that in the 70s was unthinkable.

Ian: As a result of your activities, Forestry did make some changes to its logging guidelines.

Greg: That's true. The cessation of rainforest logging and retention of habitat trees came in about that time. I think over the last 30 years there have incrementally been improvements. In the 8Os they were starting to do things not done before, like saving trees that might have importance as habitat for possums, and logging catchments in a more environmentally sensitive way. A lot of the damage was done before then. l think some of it is retrievable for birds but some may be irretrievable. The frog extinctions are probably not related to environmental damage but to the [chytrid] fungus. A similar thing happened to frogs in other high altitude rainforest streams in places like Costa Rica. Sadly it looks as though there is not a lot we can do about that.

ln respect of other things, I think the situation today is immeasurably better than when we started. In the early-70s we felt like we were bashing our head against a brick wall. Every time we went up there we saw another area cleared or a gully that had been logged. The damage was in your face and obvious and growing and there was not a huge amount of public interest in these issues at the time.

Ian: We're fortunate in Queensland to be free of the pressure of woodchipping. Was that always the case?

Greg: There had been a couple of proposals in south-east Queensland that were based on the premise they would be using sawmill residue, so-called waste... in other words, those trees left in the forest after logs were taken out - which is effectively clearfelling. lt’s what happens in Tasmania and elsewhere. We vigorously opposed those proposals. They never came to fruition because the government quietly knocked them on the head. Bjelke-Petersen did, on occasion, make sensible environmental decisions, very quietly. He did seem to have a bit of a green streak in him. It could be that he knocked them on the head and didn't want to publicise it. That would be consistent with his character. Perhaps they didn’t come to fruition for purely commercial reasons.

With Chris Corben in 2010
Ian: How was public support back then?

Greg: You did notice as time went on, public interest got better, but initially there was very little
interest. Environmental issues didn't get much space in the newspapers. We used to always be having to think of gimmicks. We’d go and get a python or something and wrap it around ourselves. The Gastric-brooding Frog was good for publicity but once we’d done that we couldn’t do it again. You had to come up with another gimmick to attract the media because to them it wasn’t a big issue.

Even though we were carrying on a lot, we weren’t getting massive amounts of publicity in the early stages. The odd National Party MP would meet us. We had a meeting with Mike Ahem who was the MP for Landsborough, later to become Premier. He sat there with his feet up on the table. We were trying to get him enthusiastic about gastric-brooding frogs and owls and things. He just had this glazed look in his eyes: “when’s the meeting going to be finished?” sort of thing. 

A huge amount of work went into the campaign. l wrote hundreds of letters. We were bashing everyone’s ear that we could get hold of. The amount of work we put into it and the submissions we did is not reflected in the media coverage we got. You can see how far things have come since then. When we used to camp at Booloumba Creek or Little Yabba Creek, we'd be the only people there, even at Easter. And you know what it’s like now. It demonstrates how far we have come. Now there are so many people, for better or worse, who like to go and camp at these places. It reflects the change in public interest.

Ian: That night (in 2004) that we went spotlighting, you and Chris showed an incredible ability to find things.

Greg: It’s just such a marvellous area. These frogmouths and owls and Yellow-bellied Gliders, Feathertail Gliders – there aren't really other places in south-east Queensland where you can do that and see such a variety of quite rare birds and mammals. lt’s a very special area. We’ve been spotlighting there for years. We used to drive up there, sometimes spotlighting just about all night. We are used to picking things up. We have refined techniques over the years - the use of sound, playing tapes of calls. It’s very easy to do now but when we would go to Beauty Spot 100, people hadn't got into any of that. Even though the Marbled Frogmouth was subsequently found to be common in the Conondales, it was a long time before people saw another one after the first discovery. Lots of people went looking for it and had no success. Chris Corben was tearing his hair out for months from not being able to find one until we got on to the recording equipment. Once we were able to do that, it was easy: they would just come into the tapes. We did a survey throughout south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales and found they were a lot more widespread that we thought, although this is probably the best area for them and they are especially common in the Conondales. l’m not sure why, perhaps the association of rose gums and piccabeen palms which do particularly well there. Now that we have playback technology it makes it a lot easier to find birds.

Ian: The forestry campaign was pretty confrontational in other parts of the country. Was it ever like that here in your time?

Greg: There was that feeling in the Forestry Department that we were out to take their jobs. They really didn't know what we were talking about... it wasn’t important compared to
jobs. And they always insisted that what they were doing was environmentally sustainable.

Ian: Forestry mounted quite an aggressive campaign about their environmental sustainability.

Greg: We didn’t agree with that, obviously. First of all their logging was totally over the top. They were taking out huge trees from places we didn’t think they should, especially in prime habitat areas, taking them from steep hillsides and stream banks and all sorts of situations. Canopy retention in a lot of places where they had been logging was 40-50 per cent. When they were logging in the 80s it improved but in the early-70s it was rampant. Then there was the clear-felling for pine plantations. There was this sort of siege mentality but they [Forestry] didn’t regard us as much of a threat. There was a certain amount of aggression towards us. We’d meet it on the road occasionally; not physical violence or anything but a lot of defensiveness.

Agricola Gold Mine - Early rehabilitation work in 1996 
Ian: The Agricola gold mine came along a bit after your time.

Greg: Actually the gold mine was there in my time. Some activity was going on up there and we weren’t happy about it. It was part of our campaign. We were always going on about the mine; it was an obscenity as far as we were concemed. There wasn't large-scale work going on but
people were working there; sometimes two or three people, small-scale sort of stuff. It was just over the hill from Beauty Spot I00 and it was one of the issues we tried to highlight. We were trying to close it down. That mine should never have been there.

[Postscript: Excellent work to safeguard this area continues to be undertaken by the Conondale Range Conservation Association.]

Monday, 19 September 2016

Newly Discovered Wetland on Sunshine Coast

West Coolum Wetland
While negotiations continue in the hope of resolving the future of the Yandina Creek Wetland, it has emerged that the Sunshine Coast Council owns a substantial parcel of land with similar wetland and grassland habitat.

Google Earth image of West Coolum Wetland
I stumbled across the area, located between the Sunshine Coast Motorway and Coolum Creek Reserve, while kayaking along Coolum Creek. I walked a somewhat overgrown track extending from an old cane train bridge that crosses the creek to the motorway.

Sunshine Coast Council MyMaps of site

I discovered that there are some nice birds in the wetland. In an extensive area of mangrove fern, I heard and saw briefly an Australian Spotted Crake - a very rare species in south-east Queensland that has also been recorded at Yandina Creek. I heard about 10 Spotless Crakes, seeing two.

Spotless Crake
I also heard 8 Lewin's Rails and saw one, along with a Buff-banded Rail. Little Grassbird was quite common. A Swamp Harrier quartered the grassland.
Buff-banded Rail
In short, there is a nice suite of grassland and reed-inhabiting bird species at the site, which I'll dub West Coolum Wetland for the sake of convenience. West Coolum lacks the diversity of Yandina Creek before that wetland was drained; it seemingly has no deep water pools, mangroves or extensive areas of mudflats.

West Coolum Wetland
However, there were some areas of exposed mud and cane stubble - potentially good waterbird habitat - but by comparison with Yandina Creek, few other waterbirds about. The only shorebirds, for instance, were a single Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and a lone Latham's Snipe; Yandina Creek at this time of year should be swarming with shorebirds. (It is a matter of considerable regret that shorebirds and other waterbirds continue to be denied access to the Yandina Creek Wetland.) A list of birds seen at West Coolum can be found here.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Nonetheless, the area has potential. As in the case of Yandina Creek, broken floodgates have allowed the site to be regularly inundated by tidal water, creating a wetland habitat in an area that until the mid-2000s had been used to grow sugarcane.

West Coolum Wetland floodgates
A check of Sunshine Coast Council MyMaps shows the council owns a 90-hectare parcel of land covering the site. The land is designated either as "unallocated" or "open space sport environment". This suggests that the council plans to use part or all of the site for some kind of sports project.

During months of controversy surrounding Yandina Creek, the council did not reveal that it had this site in its possession. The council rejected proposals to acquire the Yandina Creek properties for conservation purposes, largely on the basis of cost (estimated at $4 million). The council has been asked to explain its plans for the future of the West Coolum Wetland.

Allocasuarina regrowth at Yandina Creek
Meanwhile, as the fate of Yandina Creek remains in the balance, a recent inspection of that site shows that dense regrowth of Melaleuca and Allocasuarina is flourishing in areas that were inundated tidally before the wetland was drained. This in fact is what happened to the council-owned Coolum Creek Reserve, which lies between the Yandina Creek and Coolum West wetlands. Also former cane farmland, the Coolum Creek Reserve these days harbours little variety of wildlife and few waterbirds as it is essentially a large thicket of Melaleuca and Allocasuarina regrowth.

Google Earth screenshot showing from west to east Yandina Creek Wetland (presently drained), Coolum Creek Reserve (vegetation), Coolum West Wetland

 That said, a large reserve embracing the contiguous (from west to east) Yandina Creek Wetland, Coolum Creek Reserve and Coolum West Wetland would be a substantial addition to the national environmental estate.

Parklakes Wetland
I also visited the Parklakes Wetland at Bli Bli. As has been indicated previously, the Parklakes estate developers have essentially destroyed this once excellent wetland. The wetland today had been drained yet again. Any waterbirds that may have tried to nest in the remnant of reedbed surviving past depredations would have been left high and dry.  Of some consolation was this nice Black-necked Stork in flooded caneland near Yandina.

Black-necked Stork
While on a recent visit to north Queensland, I called in on two wetlands which, like Yandina Creek and West Coolum, are established on low-lying land formerly used to grow sugar crane. Tyto Wetland near Ingham and Cattana Wetland near Cairns are among the top wetland reserves in the wet tropics region.

Cattana Wetland
Cattana Wetland
Catanna and Tyto both have great biodiversity value as wildlife reserves; they boost the regional economy as popular ecotourism destinations; and they enhance the lifestyle of local residents who are fiercely protective of the wetlands. Hopefully the Sunshine Coast will have something similar to boast about in the not-too-distant future.

Tyto Wetland