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 December 2013

Australian Little Bittern at Bli Bli

Australian Little Bittern
The recently created Parklakes wetlands at Bli Bli on the Sunshine Coast has turned up a very smart male Australian Little Bittern.

Australian Little Bittern
Last week, I reported (see here) seeing Baillon's Crake, Spotless Crake and Little Grassbird in these excellent man-made wetlands, which are located in a new housing estate. Since then, local birders have reported seeing Lewin's Rail and Pale-vented Bush-hen at Parklakes. Then, on Christmas Day, an Australian Little Bittern was reported here.

I located the bittern early this morning, a little distantly but showing well in the north-west corner of the second lagoon. It perched on reeds at the edge of the extensive reed-bed in this lagoon in the sun as it fished. The bird caught at least one fish during the 20 minutes or so that I was watching before it disappeared into the reeds, but it was seen soon after by another observer, perched in the reed-bed.

I returned the next day and good views of the female, so there could be a pair in residence.

Australian Little Bittern



Baillon's Crake
No fewer than six Baillon's Crakes were feeding on the lilies this morning, some being quite approachable. A single Spotless Crake was also present along with six Latham's Snipe and a smattering of other waterbirds. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Critter Christmas Tit-Bits

Azure Kingfisher
Nice birds around the Sunshine Coast in recent days include Eastern Grass Owl, Marbled Frogmouth, King Quail, Pale-vented Bush-hen, Spotted Harrier, Black-breasted Buttonquail, Black-necked Stork, Noisy Pitta, Barred Cuckoo-shrike and Baillon's Crake.

Azure Kingfishers were unusually common during three hours of kayaking on the Upper Maroochy River; I saw 12. A male Eastern Koel showed itself, as did a white phase Grey Goshawk. In south-east Queensland, white phase Grey Goshawks are scarce.

Azure Kingfisher

Eastern Koel

Grey Goshawk white phase
Golden Whistler
An early morning visit to Charlie Moreland Park on Little Yabba Creek was productive, as usual. Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves were calling commonly. A couple of Barred Cuckoo-shrikes showed briefly. The three monarchs - White-eared, Spectacled and Black-faced - were present. Later we moved on to Moy Pocket where a pair of Pale-vented Bush-hens showed after a little coaxing at a site where they turn up from time to time. Then on to Imbil, where a male Black-breasted Buttonquail was seen soon after arriving. It was another hour or so before fine views of a female were obtained. I've not had the birds at this spot during recent visits. A Noisy Pitta was unusually co-operative here.

Marbled Frogmouth male
An evening excursion began at Pacific Paradise where several King Quail were vocalising along with a larger number of Brown Quail in tall grassland. Then, just after sunset. an Eastern Grass Owl was seen quartering over the grassland. We moved on to Mapleton National Park in the Blackall Range where we enjoyed a prolonged, close encounter with Marbled Frogmouths. A male and female were seen well and three pairs all up were heard.

Marbled Frogmouth female
Bandy Bandy

A nice surprise was a Bandy Bandy on the road. As we tried to move it off the road, it contorted itself into its signature but weird defensive posture.

Osprey
Close views of Baillon's Crake were enjoyed during two visits to Parklakes Wetlands. A female Black-norked Stork was seen at Lake Macdonald along with Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis and 5 Latham's Snipe. This fine Osprey was seen eating a fish at Alexandra Headland. A Spotted Harrier was seen at North Arm. At Cooroy, the fledgling Grey Goshawk reported earlier (see here) is now a fine-looking juvenile out of the nest.

Rufous Fantail
A Rufous Fantail was sitting on a nest at the same spot the birds nested last year at the Maroochy Wetlands Reserve, Bli Bli. Other birds here included Mangrove Gerygone, Shining Bronze Cuckoo and White-throated Treecreeper.

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo

White-throated Treecreeper
Brisbane River Turtle Emydura signata 
I called in to the Noosa Botanic Gardens at Cooroy. The Freckled Ducks that have been there for months are gone, so a nice turtle had to do.  

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Birding Bli Bli: Baillon's Crake, Spotless Crake Close Up

Spotless Crake
Today I visited the new artificial wetland at the Parklakes real estate development near Bli Bli. The birding was very good, with excellent, close views of Baillon's Crake and Spotless Crake, among other things. Most of us are concerned about urban sprawl but if it's going to happen, this is the way to go. Congratulations on the developers for creating a first-rate wetlands here.

Spotless Crake
I found the first Spotless Crake within minutes of arriving and saw a total of four, with others heard. The wetlands are a series of connected large ponds with just the right mixture of open water and vegetation such as lilies, sedges and rushes. Hundreds of flowering native shrubs and trees have been planted around the pond edges. All up, an impressive effort.

Baillon's Crake
 It wasn't long before I saw a Baillon's Crake, also close up.  I saw a second Baillon's a short while later.

Baillon's Crake

Parklakes Wetlands
The wetlands have lots of potential

Wandering Whistling-Duck
Other nice birds here included  Wandering Whistling-Duck, Latham's Snipe, Little Grassbird and Buff-banded Rail.
White-breasted Woodswallow

This woodswallow was nearby in the Maroochy River canefields.

Grey Shrike-Thrush
 In the garden at Ninderry, the hot weather is attracting plenty of interest in the bird bath.
Eastern Yellow Robin

Brush Cuckoo
A Brush Cuckoo shows nicely.
Peaceful Dove
 Peaceful Dove is a scarce visitor in the garden.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
 A Dusky Honeyeater is presently visiting flowering shrubs.

Dusky Honeyeater
Eastern Grey Kangaroo
Plenty of Eastern Grey Kangaroos were in evidence during a visit to Toorbul, with quite a few seemingly at home on the tidal flats.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Asian Dowitcher, Black Bittern Behaving Oddly, Local Bits

Dowitcher site - North Pine River
An Asian Dowitcher was reported last Sunday by Andy Jensen on the North Pine River near the Osprey House Environmental Centre, in the same place where an Asian Dowitcher was seen in June.

Lousy image of Asian Dowitcher
When I visited the spot yesterday I found not one but two Asian Dowitchers. Andy's directions are spot on. The birds are best viewed from the mudlfats on the southern shore of the river after walking a short distance through mangroves from the lay-by on a sharp bend of Dohles Rocks Road. This spot is where the road first meets the mangroves - a few hundred metres back towards the Bruce Highway from Osprey House. Beware: the mud can be very deep and sticky here.

The dowitchers were quite distant but seen easily through a scope. Unlike other waders there, they kept well back from the water edge, feeding along the line of exposed mangrove roots. The tide at the time was low but turning. A combination of distance and foreground interference meant I managed only lousy images, such as the one above.


Here is a better one, taken by Ian Montgomery at Cairns. For some time after my arrival at the North Pine River, I saw just a single dowitcher, but later a second bird emerged. At times they foraged together but mostly they were apart, and not associating particularly with other waders. I noticed that the dowitchers fed backwards and forwards along the mangrove root line, keeping within a fairly restricted area perhaps 150 metres long.

Whimbrel
The only other waders present were a few Eastern Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrels, along with a couple of Grey-tailed Tattlers and a single Marsh Sandpiper.

POSTSCRIPT

I returned to the North Pine River site today (December 12) to kayak to the mangroves behind where the dowitchers were seen in the hope of obtaining better photographs, as it seemed the birds were wedded to foraging in a fairly restricted area.

Black-tailed Godwit
No sign of the dowitchers unfortunately. However, other waders present were very different from a few days ago. Today there were good numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Red-capped Plover, Pacific Golden Plover and Common Greenshank, none of which I saw earlier in the week.

White-faced Heron
 In other forays, I kayaked the Tewantin section of the Noosa River and saw Black Bittern on three occasions over a period of a couple of hours. After I left the kayak to walk around Sheepstation Island, I was surprised when a bittern I flushed from the bank at very close quarters dived into the water. Its head and neck appeared above the water, darter-like, before the bird disappeared. I would be interested in hearing if others have heard of similar behaviour. I am not sure if I saw one or more bitterns overall. The bitterns would not allow themselves to be photographed, so a heron had to do.
A male Shining Flycatcher was seen in the mangroves and two other single flycatchers were heard.

Boebuck
 Some images closer to home, in the garden at Ninderry. The Boebuck and her now well-grown young continue to play havoc with the bird feeders.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo
 A sub-adult male Eastern Grey Kangaroo has moved in, drinking the bird bath dry here.

Green Catbird
 This catbird showed well, along with a few other nice birds.
Eastern Yellow Robin

Pale-headed Rosella & White-headed Pigeon

Friday, 29 November 2013

Tin Can Bay: Shining Flycatcher, Black Bittern, Bush-hen, Ground Parrot, Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin_
A lovely encounter with Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Pale-vented Bush-hen, Black Bittern, Ground Parrot and Shining Flycatcher were the highlights of a three-day visit to Tin Can Bay.

Pale-vented Bush-hen
We stayed at the Top Tourist Caravan Park in Tin Can Bay. A pair of Pale-vented Bush-hens were very vocal in the maleleuca swamp at the back of the park and the birds would sometimes feed in the open, with no coaxing required. A second pair of bush-hens could be heard calling in the swamp.

Pale-vented Bush-hen

Noosa Plain, Cooloola
Following an early morning drive to the Noosa Plain nearby at Cooloola, five Ground Parrots were flushed at different spots from the main telegraph line road along a 400-metre stretch over about 20 minutes. This is an unusually high density of this species and it was apparent that the birds were feeding on grasses in relatively open areas along the road.

Ground Parrot
 I even managed a distant if poor shot of a Ground Parrot in flight.

Teewah Creek
 No visit to the Noosa Plain is complete without dropping in to the beautiful Teewah Creek.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
 A group of 8 Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos were feeding in bushes on the Noosa Plain.

Grey-tailed Tattler
 I spent a morning kayaking along Snapper Creek, Tin Can Bay. Quite a few tattlers were roosting in the mangroves at high tide.

Snapper Creek, Tin Can Bay
I tried a bit of Black Bittern playback and a bird responded. A fine male soon flew in, and although I could see it well just a few metres away, a profusion of mangrove leaves prevented a picture. I've rarely encountered Black Bittern in mangroves and when I have the birds have been secretive.

Shining Flycatcher - female
I had more success with Shining Flycatcher, seeing a total of seven - two pairs and three single males - in the mangroves.
Shining Flycatcher - female

Shining Flycatcher - male

Dolphin feeding station
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
This morning we visited the dolphin feeding station at Norman Point, Tin Can Bay, where Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins have for many years been coming in to feed on fish handed to them under supervision by visitors.  The animals are remarkably tame, placidly allowing a steady procession of visitors who are  allowed to hand-feed them small fish. It is a magical experience to spend a good 40 minutes or so standing knee-deep in water watching these animals at such close quarters.
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
A pair of dolphins were present during our visit but up to six members of the pod come in each morning to be fed.
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
One animal surfaced with an empty wine bottle finely balanced on its snout; the dolphin spent some time swimming about with the bottle.
Dolphin feeding at Tin Can Bay
Visitors pay $5 to enter the feeding site which is on the property of a local cafe, and another $5 to feed a fish to the dolphins. The funds supposedly are spent on managing the site and feeding the animals, though it is fair to say it is a lucrative money spinner for the cafe owners. Visitors from around the world are attracted to Tin Can Bay by the dolphins. The animals have apparently been coming in to be fed here since the 1950s, when an injured dolphin that beached itself was hand-fed by locals until it recovered.