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.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Peregrine and Black Falcons - Camping in the Warrumbungles

I had long wanted to visit the Warrumbungles in central northern NSW. We headed off for a three-day camp to Warrumbungle National Park after visiting Kwiambal National Park further north. Some excellent mountain scenery was enjoyed, with this image showing the nearby Siding Springs space observatory on the distant ridge top.

The Warrumbungles were devastated by a huge bushfire last January - see here for one interesting report at the time. I was surprised at the totality of the destruction and how little vegetation had regenerated almost six months after the event. Something is wrong with fire management practices when a fire can cause such extensive damage over such a vast area. We were told by a landholder neighbouring the national park that the fire-fighting authorities called it quits at 4pm on the day the fire broke out, allowing it to get out of control overnight.

Peregrine Falcon
One advantage of the loss of vegetation was the increased ease with which raptors could be seen. A pair of vocal Peregrine Falcons frequented the cliffs not far from Camp Wambelong, where we were based. This was the only one of many camping grounds in the park open due to fire damage.

Black Falcon
I saw a Black Falcon on the way to the Warrumbungles near Bingara, and although distant, I include it here for the shape comparison with the Peregrine.

Wedge-tailed Eagle
Plenty of Wedge-tailed Eagles were seen in the Warrumbungles. The above-mentioned Peregrine pair was quick to dive-bomb the eagles.

Some more scenic shots of the Warrumbungles.

These mountains near our camp were aglow with the late afternoon sun.

We had to head a little west, out of the park and the burned wasteland, to find some nice western birds in open woodland on the edge of farmland. Some dry country birds encountered included Spotted Bowerbird, White-browed Babbler, Grey-crowned Babbler and the following.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Hooded Robin

Red-capped Robin

Singing Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Turquoise Parrot - Camping at Kwiambal National Park, Northern NSW

We had a very pleasant three-day camp-out at Kiambal National Park in northern NSW, not far from the Queensland border. This was a lovely area of rivers, granite outcrops and woodland, remniscent of Girraween National Park in Queensland.  Star of the show was Turquoise Parrot. We found two groups - one of three birds and one of five birds, all seen roadside while driving around the park. This is a male.

/Crested Shrike-tit

Crested Shrike-tit
Crested Shrike-tit was among some nice birds seen here.

We were fortunate to visit the park during an excellent time seasonally, with the waterways in full flow following recent rains. Here are some of the scenic offerings, mainly of the Severn River and its various tributaries.

Mid-winter camping
.The joys of mid-winter camping in the NSW highlands. It was -3 degrees C in the early morning. Having the  camper van to shelter in makes coping with the cold a good deal easier than a tent.

White-browed Scrubwren
Some of the birds around camp and in the woodlands.

Australian Raven
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Speckled Warbler
It was nice to see Speckled Warbler, a species in decline throughout the woodlands of the sub-interior, in good numbers here.

Red-necked Wallaby
Macropods were plentiful - Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Wallaroo, Swamp Wallaby and Red-necked Wallaby.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo joey 
Feral goats
A big problem in the national park was the very large numbers of feral goats - they were all over the place.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Black-tailed Native-hen at Yandina Creek, Sunshine Coast

Black-tailed Native-hen
This afternoon I found three Black-tailed Native-hens in flooded grassland on River Road, Yandina Creek, on the Sunshine Coast.

Black-tailed Native-hen
The birds were wary at first but gradually they appeared to loose their fear of me. They were at a spot where I recently found other good birds including Australian Painted Snipe and a large flock of Red-kneed Dotterel - see here. The dotterels had been at this site for several weeks but today, just 2 could be found.

Black-tailed Native-hen
Late last year I found a single Black-tailed Native-hen in the Sunshine Coast hinterland at Ewen Maddock Dam (see here).  The species is normally very rare in south-east Queensland but a few have turned up recently at other sites, mainly in the Lockyer Valley. They are part of a move by several inland bird species to coastal areas in eastern Australia in recent months.

Black-tailed Native-hen
The native-hens are in an area of excellent grassland-wetland habitat close to the Maroochy River. I have attempted to alert the authorities of the need to purchase some of this privately owned land to protect it as a reserve (see here) but unfortunately without success.

Purple Swamphen
The native-hens were associating loosely with some of the large numbers of Purple Swamphen about.

Buff-banded Rail
A single Buff-banded Rail put in an appearance.
Australian Hobby

An Australian Hobby perched on a roadside telegraph wire.

Dusky Honeyeater
Also today a Dusky Honeyeater showed nicely in my Ninderry garden.

Dusky Honeyeater

Monday, 3 June 2013

Marbled Frogmouth Vocalising in Winter

Marbled  Frogmouth
I was surprised to find a pair of Marbled Frogmouths last night being unusually vocal and active for this time of year in rainforest at Booloumba Creek, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Marbled Frogmouth can be difficult to find in the cooler months as it seldom calls, but this pair was calling as if it was spring or early summer.

Marbled Frogmouth
The birds were high up so the images are not great. The frogmouth in this picture has its eyes closed, which is unusual. This is the browner female of the pair. Marbled Frogmouth has been reliable at this site for many years; I first found them here in the late-1970s.

Rose Robin
This male Rose Robin showed nicely at Booloumba Creek.

Rose Robin
Rose Robin is mainly a winter visitor to south-east Queensland but a small population is resident in the Conondale Range. This bird was giving its full song. Many winter visitors generally emit only the nasal contact call.

Rose Robin

Russet-tailed Thrush
I snapped a Russet-tailed Thrush in the early morning gloom along a forest track. There were good numbers of this species about Booloumba Creek: I saw perhaps 10 or 12.

New Holland Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater was also in good numbers.

A couple of scenic shots.

Confluence of Little Yabba Creek and Mary River

Obi Obi Valley


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Campbell Newman Takes an Axe to the Queensland Environment

Part of the area added by Labor to Mapleton National Park on the Sunshine Coast -  Campbell Newman may revoke  Labor's park declarations
This article was published in The Weekend Australian of 1-2 June, 2013

Measures being implemented in Queensland by Premier Campbell Newman amount to the greatest rollback of environmental protection in Australian political history.

A small coterie of Nationals in the Liberal National Party Government ministry, backed by the LNP’s Nationals-dominated organisational wing, is overseeing the systematic dismantling of key environmental laws. Newman, supposedly a Liberal moderate, is turning a blind eye to the Nationals’ escapades in the interests of maintaining LNP unity.

The passage of the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill undermines Labor’s tree-clearing laws, opening up two million hectares of bushland to the bulldozers. The consequences will include loss of biodiversity across the state, further shrinkage of remnant areas of native vegetation and increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Queensland is set to return to the days of having one of the world's highest tree-clearing rates
Newman broke a pre-election promise to keep the laws. Vegetation once protected can now be cleared if land is deemed of “high agricultural value” - an open-ended definition. The protection of regrowth vegetation has been dispensed with. It is easier to bulldoze bushland along watercourses. If land-holders clear specially protected vegetation, the onus of proof is reversed so they can merely plead ignorance to avoid prosecution.

Before Labor’s laws were enacted in 2006, Queensland had one of the world’s highest land-clearing rates; those days are returning although there is less bushland left to clear. Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps boasted when foreshadowing the move that he was “taking an axe” to the laws. And so he did: most bushland remaining on private and leased land is up for grabs. Cripps is one of three right-wing Nationals in the ministry – along with Agriculture Minister John McVeigh and State Development Minister and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney - who have Newman’s blessing for the new environmental agenda.

Eungella Honeyeater - under threat from a new logging licence. Picture by Trevor Quested
McVeigh opened up to 30,000 hectares a year of state forest for logging.  Logging was stopped by Labor as part of a shift to greater use of plantation timber. The “forest wars” that were once a feature of the political landscape are returning: conservationists are outraged by a logging licence granted over rainforest in Crediton State Forest near Mackay - the habitat of the endangered eungella honeyeater.

Seeney is implementing a development blueprint that includes the scrapping of wild river declarations on Cape York. The Government aims to scuttle the proposed World Heritage Listing of Cape York, one of Australia’s outstanding wilderness areas. Seeney has declared that Cape York is open for mining and agricultural expansion.

Mulga woodlands in western Queensland - among the habitats threatened by new tree-clearing laws
Seeney’s plans mirror those of Cape York Aboriginal powerbroker Noel Pearson, who argues that environmental protections stymie indigenous economic opportunities. His opponents say preserving wilderness affords greater opportunities. They point to benefits for indigenous communities that result from protecting World Heritage-listed Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tujta in the Northern Territory.  Wild river declarations were intended to protect the few watercourses that remain in pristine condition. Murrandoo Yanner is among many indigenous leaders who back wild rivers; they are angered by Pearson’s presumption to speak on their behalf.

Campbell Newman has thrown open two million hectares of bushland to the bulldozers
Cape York aside, declarations of three south-west Queensland rivers in the Lake Eyre Basin are being amended to facilitate mining and agricultural development: guidelines provide “greater efficiencies for petroleum and gas companies”. The move is opposed by an alliance of Aboriginal leaders and farmers. They fear the expansion of controversial coal-seam gas projects and cotton-farming in a region that is too arid to sustain it, and that Lake Eyre will suffer from the diversion of water that in good years would flow to it.

The Wenlock River on Cape York - one of several wild river declarations ditched by Campbell Newman
Newman is reviewing Labor’s national park declarations, signalling that many will be revoked. The protection of national parks is supposed to be set in stone, otherwise there is no point in having them. Queensland’s already small national park estate will contract, and in the process the sanctity of national parks is ditched. Newman has bowed to the Nationals’ demands to allow grazing in national parks - a move with potentially serious consequences for the fragile ecology of arid zone parks.  Newman insists this will save the lives of starving cattle but they will be slaughtered soon in abattoirs anyway; the objective of graziers is to fatten cattle to boost financial returns, not to save their lives.

Wongi State Forest - one of many formerly protected state forest opened up for logging
 A handful of Liberal moderates in the LNP Cabinet harbour reservations about the rollback. However, LNP unity is Newman’s paramount concern, at the price of caving into the Nationals on environmental (and a raft of social) policies. History repeats itself: as with former state coalition governments before the Liberals and Nationals merged in 2008, weak-kneed Liberals are browbeaten into submission by Nationals.

Wallum heath - fewer protections now for coastal vegetation
Newman’s environmental agenda is more destructive than that of former National Party Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who at least protected national parks and launched initiatives to preserve the wilderness values of Cape York. Newman has signalled that 12.5 million hectares of land under government control is under review, with assurances only that “pristine” areas will be protected.

Cooper Creek - one of several south-west Queensland wild river declarations being watered down
 For all his defects, Bjelke-Petersen kept an environmental leash on extremists in the Nationals' ranks. Not so Newman. Now it is open slather.

This article was published in The Weekend Australian of 1-2 June, 2013