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, 28 July 2013

Masked Booby, Fairy Prion, Black-browed Albatross - July 2013 Sunshine Coast Pelagic

Masked Booby 
Masked Booby, Fairy Prion, White-faced Storm-Petrel and Black-browed Albatross were the highlights of another successful pelagic trip off Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday July 27, 2013.

We headed off in our catamaran, Cat-A-Pult, at 7am in conditions which remained relatively stable throughout the morning, with a 15 knot south-easterly wind - increasing to 18 knots in the early afternoon - and a swell of about 1.2m. The sky was clear, with the temperature ranging from 14 to 21 degrees. Wind conditions had been similar throughout the week so we were hopeful of something decent turning up.

Providence Petrel

Our first Providence Petrel showed at 24 nautical miles offshore, and it proved to be the most common species seen during the day. A Fairy Prion and a few Common Noddies made their appearance as we approached the shelf. A small pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins was also seen. We cut the engine 31 nm offshore at 200m on the edge of the shelf, arriving there at 9.15am. We began drifting north, leaving a berley trail of shark liver.

Fairy Prion

Fairy Prion
We had several Fairy Prions feeding in the wake of the boat, and Providence Petrels were continually present.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater
A Wedge-tailed Shearwater was an unexpected show at this time of year. A single White-faced  Storm-Petrel put in a brief appearance soon after and a couple more Common Noddies were seen distantly.

Australasian Gannet
Australasian Gannets in various plumages were seen regularly, including this juvenile. Less expected was an immature Masked Booby which flew over the boat (see first image and below) and landed briefly on the water.

Masked Booby - Picture by Matthew Binns
Among the features noted were a small area of blue facial skin, a yellowish bill, a brown hood and the patterning of its upperparts. Masked Booby is a scarce species in south-east Queensland.

Black-browed Albatross
Black-browed Albatross
We were joined for 30 minutes or so by a juvenile Black-browed Albatross. Our only albatross on Sunshine Coast pelagics to date had been Light-mantled Sooty and Buller's (!) so it was nice to finally catch up with this one.

Humpback Whale
As conditions deteriorated and the wind picked up, we headed home at 12.30pm. We had some nice sightings of Humpback Whale on the way back, arriving at the harbour at 3pm.

PARTICIPANTS: Lachlan Tuckwell (skipper), Greg Roberts (organiser), Ian Barnett, Matthew Binns, Sarah Bevis, Chris Craig, Helena Craig, Mya-Rose Craig, Taryn Crispin, Alex Ferguson, Rod Gardner, Jim Macready, Kathy Wilk, Russell Yong.

SPECIES  Total (maximum number at one time)

Black-browed Albatross 1 (1)
Providence Petrel 60 (20)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 1 (1)
Fairy Prion 12 (3)
Australasian Gannet 30 (5)
Masked Booby 1 (1)
Common Noddy 4 (2)
Crested Tern 20 (4)

Humpback Whale 6 (2)
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin 4 (2)

Friday, 26 July 2013

Birding Bundaberg

Black-necked Stork
We had a pleasant five-day stay in the Bundaberg area, based at the seaside Bargara Caravan Park. Nice birds included Freckled Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Black-necked Stork, Square-tailed Kite, Lesser Crested Tern, Brown Booby, Red-kneed Dotterel, White-eared Monarch, Barn Owl and Shining Flycatcher.

Ready to roll
Cotton Pygmy-Goose
On our way north I found three Cotton Pygmy-Geese in a small roadside wetland just north of Gympie.

Tawny Frogmouth
We called in at small wallum reserve south of Bundaberg where this frogmouth was in full camouflage mode.

Little Friarbird
We then dropped in on our friends Trevor and Annie Quested. Birds in their garden included plenty of Noisy and Little Friarbirds.

Mon Repos beach
The camping ground adjoined the Mon Repos Conservation Park, a major site for sea turtle nesting, though not at this time of year. Brown Booby and Australasian Gannet were in good numbers offshore.

Sooty Oystercatcher
Among the birds here were several Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers on the rocks. A Barn Owl was flushed from a pandanus near the beach during the day. Fairy Gerygones were quite common in the coastal scrub.

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo
This cuckoo was near our camping site.

Rainbow Bee-eater
Rainbow Bee-eater
And a Rainbow Bee-eater struggles with its breakfast.

Black-necked Stork
We did a fair bit of driving, visiting various sites. A juvenile Black-necked Stork was near the mouth of the Kolan River at the Miara Caravan Park. It clearly was quite tame and being fed by fishing folk. Another Black-necked Stork was seen at Bundaberg Port.

Lesser Crested Tern
A single Lesser Crested Tern was seen flying up the river at Miara with more numerous Crested Terns. On a later visit I took the kayak out for a few hours and saw a single male Shining Flycatcher in the mangroves.

Red-kneed Dotterel
Another nice spot was Norval Park, where plenty of small plovers were feeding on the mudflats, including 20+ Red-kneed Dotterels. While travelling from Norval Park to Moore Park Beach, a Square-tailed Kite was seen flying over roadside woodland.

Freckled Duck

Freckled Duck & Pacific Black Duck
Four Freckled Ducks were seen on a lagoon in the heart of Moore Park. One bird had been reported by local birders on the lagoon recently. A single Pink-eared Duck was also present.

Plumed Whistling-Duck
Plumed Whistling-Ducks were in such huge numbers on this lagoon that they had taken over much of the picnic area.

White-eared Monarch
Another spot visited was Smith's Crossing on the Kolan River. White-eared and Spectacled Monarchs were seen here.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Powerful Owl, Black-chinned Honeyeater near Caboolture

Powerful Owl
A pair of Powerful Owls was detected last week at Sheep Station Creek Conservation Park - a nice area of dry open forest near Caboolture - along the Spotted Gum Track by Stuart Kelly and Carla Perkins.

Powerful Owl
I found one of the owls this morning. Early in the morning I walked the track and there was no sign of the birds. Later, I followed the creek bank south from the Grey Gum Circuit to the Spotted Gum Track, hoping to find a roosting-place. It was then that a bird flushed and landed beside the track.

Powerful Owl
The owl proved most co-operative, offering front and rear views. It was in the same place when I returned two hours later. In the image above, it is looking backwards.

Powerful Owl

Powerful Owl
It's been excellent over the past couple of weeks to have encounters with Sooty, Masked, Eastern Grass and Powerful Owls.

Black-chinned Honeyeater
Another nice sighting was a single Black-chinned Honeyeater spotted about half-way along the Spotted Gum Track. This is a scarce species in south-east Queensland.

Fuscous Honeyeater
Fuscous Honeyeaters were plentiful. It was also good to see a single Yellow-footed Äntechinus (too quick for the camera) foraging in the leaf litter late in the morning.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle
An immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle was seen on the way home over Ewen Maddock Dam. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Glossy Blacks Drinking, Grass Owls Mob Ground Parrot Playback at Noosa

Glossy Black Cockatoo - male left, female right

Despite an abundance of water about the Sunshine Coast due to ongoing wet weather, Noosa's Glossy Black Cockatoos have taken to drinking every evening at muddy pools in the grounds of a local school.

Glossy Black Cockatoo male
It is interesting that during the day, the Glossy Blacks in the ara are dispersed, feeding usually in pairs at various sites over four Sunshine Coast suburbs. However, at least a good part of the population comes together for late afternoon drinking and roosting.

Glossy Black Cockatoo male

Glossy Black Cockatoo female
I ran into local birder Bob Carey, who first spotted the cockatoos at this drinking spot. Bob keeps an eye on the cockatoos and confirms that as many as 11 cockatoos gather for the evening ritual.

Eastern Grass Owl - Picture Jim Sneddon
As dark fell, I moved to a private property adjoining an area of wallum heath in the area to listen for Ground Parrots. When none had called within an hour of sunset, I tried a bit of Ground Parrot playback. I was amazed when two Eastern Grass Owls arrived on the scene and began swooping around me.

Ground Parrot - Picture Graeme Chapman

This is extraordinary behaviour. Ground Parrots are believed to have declined sharply in numbers on the Sunshine Coast in recent years (see here for more), possibly due to habitat fragmentation or mismanagement. The owls seemed to know the source of the playback and were very interested. Was predation on their mind?

Wallum heath near Noosa

Monday, 8 July 2013

Freckled Duck & Other Waterfowl on Sunshine Coast

Freckled Duck
Freckled Ducks, normally very rare in south-east Queensland, are popping up all over the region as the exodus of inland birds to the coast continues. Now, the first Freckled Duck for the Sunshine Coast is recorded.

Freckled Duck & Little Black Cormorant
I took these images today but the bird was found by local birders almost a month ago at the Noosa Botanic Gardens, Lake Macdonald. Since then, the duck has nearly always been found perched on the above drum-line.

Freckled Duck & Eurasian Coot
Wandering Whistling-Duck 
Also on Lake Macdonald was a party of 5 Wandering Whistling-Ducks.

Plumed Whistling-Duck
While at North Arm nearby, about 200 Plumed Whistling-Ducks were massed on the shore.

Along with plenty of Hardheads.

Pink-eared Duck
Five Pink-eared Ducks were on the lake. Another species normally very rare on the Sunshine Coast, I first saw them here in July last year.
I also visited the Cooroy sewage ponds today. Interesting to see good numbers of Fairy Martins and a few Australian Reed-Warblers - both species are considered to be summer migrants - along with a couple of Little Grassbirds. A couple of other birds seen today:

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

Brown Falcon
A couple of days ago I popped in to Alexandra Headland, where the following were seen.

Eastern Reef-Egret

Crested Tern