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.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Powerful Owl & Platypus at Amamoor

An excellent encounter with a Powerful Owl and multiple sightings of Platypus were the highlights of a three-day camp at Amamoor State Forest in the Sunshine Coast hinterland this week.
I saw Platypus at three sites around the state forest's two camping grounds. In one pool near our Cedar Grove camp, a Platypus was seen on numerous occasions. They are easier to see in winter as they can be out feeding at any time of day.

They are notoriously shy, however, and it was not until the last morning that I was able to sneak up on one to get a few pictures. I had less luck photographing Powerful Owl, although I had some of my best views of this species. A single bird was calling early morning and early evening on the first two days in the forest. After plenty of effort to see it at night and to track it to its daytime roost, I finally had the bird fly past me at head-height just on sunrise and land a few metres away in full view.

Unfortunately I'd screwed up the settings on my camera in the dark so a superb photographic opportunity was lost. Thanks to Geoff Jones of Barra Imaging for this capture. Powerful Owl is a scarce species in south-east Queensland, usually detected in the cooler months when it is nesting and calling more frequently. Just a couple of weeks ago I was watching Barking Owls at Lake Broadwater.

This is the pool in Amamoor Creek where I both saw the Powerful Owl and photographed the Platypus.

Pale-yellow Robin was found in small numbers inside the rainforest.

While Paradise Riflebird was about the place, most often around the interface between rainforest and open forest.

Dusky Woodswallow is always nice to see.

New Holland Honeyeater occurs here at the northern end of its distributional range.

Large-billed Scrubwren was the commonest bird in the rainforest.

An interesting feature during the walk from the day-use area in Amamoor State Forest.


Friday, 20 July 2012

Pink-eared Duck, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Swamp Harrier on Sunshine Coast

Today I found 4 Pink-eared Ducks on a farm pond at North Arm, on the Sunshine Coast. I've not seen this species previously in the region;. normally in Queensland it is found well inland, and occurs on the coast during times of drought. The ducks' presence coincides with the return to the coast of Australian Pelicans after their bumper nesting season inland.

The Pink-eared Ducks either kept together or separated into two pairs, often with Hardheads close by.

A pair of Cotton Pygmy-Geese were found on a small farm dam nearby on the outskirts of Eumundi. These birds turn up from time to time on local dams and are regularly encountered in small numbers on the Sunshine Coast. This is the male.

And the female.

Hardheads were in good numbers on both dams.

This Swamp Harrier was feeding over the farm dam. The harrier is a scarce winter visitor to the Sunshine Coast.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Barking Owl at Lake Broadwater

A lively pair of Barking Owls was the highlight of a three-day camping trip to Lake Broadwater Conservation Reserve near Dalby, on Queensland's Darling Downs. The reserve is a 1200-hectare island of woodland in a sea of agriculture. The 350-hectare natural lake is often dry but was full during our visit following two years of heavy rain.

The Barking Owls tended to roost in a patch of dense brigalow and could be found readily by night (female, first image) or by day (male, above).

Australian Pelicans have had a huge nesting event in the inland due to two years of flooding rains and are only now just returning to coastal areas in numbers. This large flock was at Lake Broadwater.

Yellow-billed Spoonbills were plentiful around the lake shore. These and other waterbirds were feeding on good numbers of fish. As the lake had until recently been bone dry for many years, and the gullies feeding it are ephemeral, I'm not sure how fish return when these lakes fill.

Black Swan as around in good numbers.

The most interesting bird in the surrounding woodland was Inland Thornbill, here at the eastern extremity of its arid zone distribution.

Restless Flycatcher was common about the lake edge.

As were cockatoos, including Little Corella and Galah.

And Cockatiels.

Speckled Warbler was present in the denser brigalow patches.

Along with the "orangë-winged" race of Varied Sittella.

White-winged Chough was ever present.

While Grey-crowned Babbler was in scattered groups.

Striped Honeyeater was common, with other inland honeyeaters including White-plumed and Spiny-cheeked.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo was abundant with lush vegetation in every direction.

Our new Jayco camper trailer, which we picked up at Cecil Plains on the way up. Very nice and comfortable, but a little more complicated to get it organised than I had hoped, and heavier to tow and maneuvre than the smaller trailer we've now dispensed with.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Winter Twitch around the Sunshine Coast

Two days of birding around the Sunshine Coast region with an overseas visitor resulted in sightings of, among other things: Black-breasted Buttonquail, Ground Parrot,  Painted Buttonquail, Eastern Grass Owl,  Black-chinned Honeyeater,  White-eared Monarch,  Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Beach Stone-Curlew (above), Glossy Ibis, Spotted Harrier and Spotless Crake; Lewin's Rail and King Quail were heard.

We kicked off Day One with a visit to a nice patch of rainforest abutting eucalypt forest by the Mary River, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Here, several Black-chinned Honeyeaters were present in flowering eucalypts, feeding with White-throated Honeyeaters. This is turning out to be a reliable winter site for Black-chinned Honeyeater, a rare species in south-east Queensland. Thanks to Trevor Quested for this image.

We moved on to my traditional Black-breasted Buttonquail area near Imbil and were surprised to find a Painted Buttonquail roadside just 500 metres east of the site. Despite the presence of numerous platelets (above) we could not get on to any Black-breasteds; at this time of year, these shy birds are difficult to see in this densely vegetated habitat. Last week, I found fresh platelets almost certainly made by this species in rainforest in the Blackall Range near Mapleton, but again no birds could be found.
After Imbil we visited the sewage treatment works at Cooroy, where we heard Spotless Crake.

We moved on to an area of wallum heath near Noosa where we had success in flushing a Ground Parrot at a distance of five metres within an hour of our arrival. We then visited the Noosa River estuary, where a flock of about 15 Double-banded Plovers were feeding on a sandpit with several Australian Pelicans. The pelicans appear to be returning to the coast after a nesting splurge inland. We ended the day with a search for Lewin's Rail at Peregian Beach; one bird was heard but not seen.

Keen to see Black-breasted Buttonquail, early the next morning we headed north to Inskip Point, seeing a small group of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos - another species that is scarce in south-east Queensland - just outside Gympie. At Inskip, we had excellent views of a nice female Black-breasted Buttonquail in the coastal scrub after about an hour of searching.

We also scored a White-eared Monarch at the entrance to one camping-ground, and a Beach Stone-Curlew at the end of the vegetation line at Inskip Point. Mangrove Honeyeaters were plentiful, while overwintering Little and Common Terns were seen distantly.

We stopped for a look at the pretty Seary's Creek (above) in Cooloola after leaving Rainbow Beach, then headed back to the Sunshine Coast, where we found Mangrove Gerygones along the Maroochy River and Restless Flycatcher at Paradise Waters.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in wetlands and grasslands in the vicinity of the Maroochy River. A surprise was the good numbers of Australian Reed-Warbler (above) about mid-winter; this species is normally a summer visitor.

A single Glossy Ibis was present.

Along with 4 Spotted Harriers - an unusually high number of this species, normally a rare visitor to the coast.

This Fantailed Cuckoo showed nicely during a stop at Bli Bli. Late in the afternoon, in an area of marshy vegetation near Bli Bli, we had superb views of Spotless Crake, while Lewin's Rail was calling frustratingly close but failed to show. King Quail were calling in nearby grassland.

We were standing by our vehicle at dusk when an Eastern Grass Owl flew out of grass just 10 metres away to begin its nightly sojourns. The bird appeared to deliberately fly towards and over us, presumably out of curiosity. Thanks to Rob Hutchinson for this image. A fitting end to our two days' birding.