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.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Birds of Yandina Creek Wetland

Latham's Snipe
 I have pulled together a pictorial account of the birds of Yandina Creek Wetland on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Yandina Creek Wetland before being drained
The large number of people who have followed this issue will be aware that the 200ha site was drained in July 2015 when broken floodgates on the former sugar cane land were repaired. At the time, the area was a thriving wetland teeming with waterbirds, including rare and endangered species and large numbers of migratory shorebirds.

Lewin's Rail
Governments stood by and did nothing to prevent the destruction of the wetland because in their view, it had been artificially created and was therefore not worthy of protection. The land was sold by its farmer-owners in the mid-2000s. The new property developer owners, hopeful that one day the area would be rezoned from rural, failed to maintain floodgates which had prevented inundation of tidal water from the Maroochy River.
Spotless Crake
With the floodgates in disrepair, a vibrant wetland was created as the fallow land was inundated twice daily at high tide. The newly created habitat was not unlike what the area had been in its natural state, before being developed for cane farms in the 1920s.

Intermediate Egret
Following community protests and adverse media coverage, some floodgates were reopened in September 2015 when the Queensland Government took action over the alleged destruction of marine vegetation resulting from the draining. However, the floodgates were again shut - and the wetland was drained for the second time - in January 2016 after government authorities concluded they had no power to prevent plans by the property developer owners to lease the land back to its original farmer owners so sugar cane could again be grown. (This move, by technically continuing an existing land use, was intended to bypass state and federal environmental regulations.)

Australasian Darter
Over the past 12 months, however, there has been little indication that the cane farms will be re-established. It is timely to recall the wealth of birdlife that frequented the site and hopefully will return to it in due course; more will be said about this in the near future.

One of the avian strengths of the Yandina Creek Wetland was its attraction to migratory shorebirds, which are declining rapidly in numbers as their feeding grounds along the flyway between Australia and north-east Asia are developed.

Pectoral Sandpiper
According to Commonwealth guidelines, the wetland was internationally significant because it provided refuge for a significant proportion (between 120 and 150 birds) of the Australian migratory population of Latham's Snipe. The presence of this one species should have been sufficient to prompt the Australian Government to take action to protect the area under various treaties to protect migratory shorebirds to which Australia is a signatory.

Broad-billed Sandpiper
Another migratory shorebird regularly using the wetland was Curlew-Sandpiper, listed as critically endangered under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Diversity Conservation Act.
Other migratory shorebirds included species which are scarce visitors to Australia. The only records of Pectoral Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper in the Sunshine Coast region are from the Yandina Creek Wetland.

Australian Painted-Snipe
 A non-migratory shorebird seen several times at the wetland is the Australian Painted-Snipe, listed as endangered under the federal EPDCA; as many as seven of these rare wading birds have been observed. But the then federal  Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, saw no reason to intervene to save the wetland.

Red-kneed Dotterel
Some of the largest concentrations of Red-kneed Dotterel recorded in eastern Queensland have been at Yandina Creek, with more than 200 birds gathering.

Red-necked Avocet
 Another scarce resident shorebird, Red-necked Avocet, occurred there.

Spotted Harrier
I recently updated old records to present a full list of the 138 bird species recorded in the wetland here on ebird. Other wildlife of interest doubtlessly occurs but the landowners had refused permission to interested parties to undertake a full fauna and flora survey; Eastern Water-Rat and large numbers of Swamp Rat are among the mammals recorded.  Looking at the bird list shows how attractive the site was to raptors. Spotted Harrier, normally a rare visitor to south-east Queensland, is regular here.

Grey Goshawk
Grey Goshawk is usually a denizen of wet forests but at Yandina Creek it habitually sits out in the open.

Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon, nesting on nearby Mt Coolum, was a regular visitor.

Australian Hobby
Its smaller cousin, the Australian Hobby, was frequently observed.

Eastern Grass Owl
 The site was significant not just because of its wetlands. It includes substantial areas of well-developed grassland, which provides habitat for a different suite of wildlife. Although the wetland has been drained, the grasslands continue to flourish, although in the absence of tidal water flows they are gradually being replaced by exotic weeds and regrowth of Allocasuarina and Melaleuca trees. The grasslands are home to several pairs of the rare Eastern Grass-Owl.

Large-tailed Nightjar
The wetland is the most southerly site known for the Large-tailed Nightjar, another species that is extremely scarce in south-east Queensland.

Australian Little Bittern
The reeds provided refuge for a small population of the elusive Australian Little Bittern, which could be heard booming in the evening. The elevated tracks that line the canals dissecting the wetland provide excellent opportunities for observing birdlife. As has been noted previously, the site has great potential as an ecotourism destination.

Baillon's Crake
Also in the reeds lurked unusually large numbers of cryptic, uncommon waterbirds including Lewin's Rail, Spotless Crake, Australian Spotted Crake, and Baillon's Crake.

Black-tailed Native-hen
The Black-tailed Native-hen is known from just a handful of records in South-East Queensland but several birds have turned up at Yandina Creek.

Little Grassbird
Perching birds or passerines are well-represented by good populations of the likes of Little Grassbird and Tawny Grassbird in the tall grasses and reeds.

Tawny Grassbird
Red-backed Buttonquail, another species that is very rare in South-East Queensland, occurs in the grasslands, as does King Quail and Brown Quail.

Black-necked Stork
Two pairs of the stately Black-necked Stork used the wetland as a feeding ground, while Brolga was an occasional visitor.

Black Swan nest at Yandina Creek Wetland
Large numbers of waterfowl were to be found at Yandina Creek, with a healthy breeding population of Black Swans and several duck species. Many active swan nests were left stranded when the wetland was initially drained.

Pink-eared Duck
Other interesting waterfowl at the site include Australasian Shoveler and Pink-eared Duck.

Great Cormorant
More common species present in sometimes considerable numbers included Australian Pelican; Royal Spoonbill; all four species of Australian egret - Great, Intermediate, Little and Cattle; four cormorant species - Pied, Little Pied, Great and Little Black; and Australasian Darter.

Australian Pelicans & Royal Spoonbills
The mangroves along Yandina Creek were home to Black Bittern and Mangrove Gerygone.

Mangrove Gerygone

Map of properties comprising Yandina Creek Wetland

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Boonooroo & Maryborough - Asian Dowitcher, Bustard, Red-backed Buttonquail

Asian Dowitcher
 Asian Dowitcher, Grey Plover, good numbers of the endangered Far Eastern Curlew, Australian Bustard, Brown Songlark, Red-backed Buttonquail, Fairy Gerygone and Black-necked Stork were among some nice birds encountered over a couple of days in the Maryborough area.

Asian Dowitcher
I visited the shorebird high tide roosts at Boonooroo and Maaroom before and after an unusually high tide of 3.1m. I visited both roosts last February and found them quite productive. I found 2 Asian Dowitchers at Boonooroo among a large flock of Bar-tailed Godwits at the end of Davies Road; this stretch can be quite good 1-2 hours before high tide.

Terek Sandpipers
I found an unusually large flock of 70 Terek Sandpipers at the end of Oak Street before moving on to the main high tide roost at the end of Bates Street.

Grey Plovers
About 20 Grey Plovers were present here; although fewer than last year, this is clearly a good spot to find this species, which is quite scarce in south-east Queensland.

Lesser Sand-Plovers
Large numbers of Lesser Sand-Plover were about.

Far Eastern Curlews
It was nice to see good numbers of Far Eastern Curlew, with 210 counted. This species is declining rapidly and is now listed as endangered. Full list for Boonooroo can be found here.

Great Knots
I moved on to the shorebird roost at nearby Maaroom. Large numbers of Great Knot were among the many godwits. A flock of 14 Marsh Sandpipers was present. Another 60 Far Eastern Curlew were counted. With the tide so high, it was possible to watch the shorebirds easily from the vehicle. The Maaroom bird list can be accessed here.

Great Egrets
 A small number of Great Egrets were nesting among a large colony of Cattle Egrets at Uhr Park in Maryborough.

Sacred Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher was here also.  A visit to the end of Walkers Point Road was productive, with 1 Red-backed Buttonquail flushed from a track and 3 others calling from a sugarcane plantation. I've not noted this species previously in cane. Horsfield's Bushlark was also present.

Cane Toads
The area had been heavily irrigated and cane toads were active in broad daylight. A large female in a pool had 6 or 7 males clambering over her.

Fairy Gerygone
Fairy Gerygone, alongside Mangrove Gerygone, was here in mangroves and dry scrub fringing the Mary River.

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike was about. See here for the Walkers Point birdlist.
Australian Bustard

I drove along Dimond Road at Beaver Rock, finding a fine male Australian Bustard on the edge of cane plantation. It flew across the road and landed in a bare paddock.

Australian Bustard
This species is extremely rare in South-East Queensland; the closest I had seen it previously to SEQ was near Monto.

Wedge-tailed Eagle
Also in this area were Brown Songlark, Black-necked Stork and Wedge-tailed Eagle. The list for this area is here.

Nutmeg Mannikin
A flock of Nutmeg Mannikin was in tall grasses by the Mary River near the Lamington Bridge. This species was once common in South-East Queensland but is now rarely recorded.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Out and About Oakey, Eastern Darling Downs

Brown Songlark
 Following some productive birding this time last year in the Oakey-Jondaryan area of the eastern Darling Downs, it seemed like a good idea to revisit the place. Nice birds encountered included good numbers of Painted Honeyeaters, Black Falcon, Plum-headed Finch, White-winged Fairy-wren, numerous Brown Songlarks and Horsfield's Bushlarks, and Black-faced Woodswallow. This area is the eastern range limit of quite a few wide-ranging, predominantly western-central species.

Brown Songlark
Conditions were much drier this visit, although heavy rain had fallen the day before our arrival. There was no sign of the Black-eared Cuckoos seen last year. Nor were Red-chested Buttonquail or Stubble Quail heard or seen, despite looking at night as well as during the day.

Painted Honeyeater
Painted Honeyeater was in fine form. At least 8 birds including 2 juveniles were seen during two visits to Doctor's Creek Reserve, on both sides of the highway. Another Painted Honeyeater was seen just east of Jondaryan, and 4 more, including another 2 juveniles, were 2km east of the town along the Jondaryan-Sabine Road. This species appears to be a regular summer breeding visitor to this area.

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo
The dry scrub along the Jondaryan-Sabine Road was quite productive, with a Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo and a pair of Speckled Warblers on offer.

Speckled Warbler

Black-faced Woodswallow
 A Black-faced Woodswallow was perched on a wire in the same spot in the township of Jondaryan as a pair was seen last year.

Plum-headed Finch adult & juvenile
Also in the town centre was a lively flock of about 20 Plum-headed Finches feeding in a small area of heavily seeded grass, including many juveniles. The birds were not present at Doctor's Creek where they have been seen previously.

Red-rumped Parrot female
Red-rumped Parrots were feeding with the finches.

Pallid Cuckoo juvenile
A juvenile Pallid Cuckoo was on the wire near the Jondaryan Woolshed.

Horsfield's Bushlark
Brown Songlarks and Horsfield's Bushlarks were numerous along Devon Park Boundary Road, Bowenville-Norman Road and elsewhere in the area.

Black Falcon chasing Torresian Crow

Black Falcon alighting on cow

Black Falcon
A few White-winged Fairy-wrens were also present along Devon Park Boundary Road, where a Black Falcon was the bird of the trip. The falcon was watched as it unsuccessfully pursued a starling and landed briefly on a cow before chasing a Torresian Crow. Devon Park Road list can be found here.

Australian Hobby
 Nearby, an Australian Hobby performed nicely.

Australian Pelicans
A flock of Australian Pelicans was incongruous flying high above the vast agricultural plains.

Yellow-throated Miner
Other birds seen included Yellow-throated Miner, living here side-by-side with Noisy Miner.

Striped Honeyeater
Striped Honeyeater was common throughout the area.

Southern Boobook
A Southern Boobook was mobbed by other birds in the Doctor's Creek Reserve (see here for bird list for the reserve).

Zebra Finch pair
Small groups of Zebra Finch were scattered throughout the grasslands.

Wedge-tailed Eagle
On the way home a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles soared overhead.

Brush-tailed Rock-Wallaby
 We stopped at Perseverance Dam near Toowoomba (we overnighted here after 2 nights in an Oakey motel) where 5 Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies were basking in the early morning sunlight.

Brush-tailed Rock-Wallaby