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.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Little Bittern Back at Parklakes; Asian Dowitcher Still at Toorbull

Australian Little Bittern
A male Australian Little Bittern has returned to the Parklakes wetlands at Bli Bli on the Sunshine Coast. A pair were in residence here last summer (see here) when they successfully raised a single chick.

Australian Little Bittern
There is some debate about whether the species is generally a summer migrant in south-east Queensland as winter records are few; none have been seen at Parklakes since April. I've had one also recently at the nearby Yandina Creek Wetlands (see here).

Buff-banded Rail
Baillon's Crake
With dry conditions continuing in the region, extensive areas of mud are exposed are Parklakes. I saw 1 Spotless Crake, 1 Baillon's Crake and 1 Buff-banded Rail, while Latham's Snipe showed nicely with about 10 seen.

Latham's Snipe
Little Egret and Intermediate Egret were looking good in breeding plumage.

Little Egret

Intermediate Egret
At Bli Bli, a Rufous Fantail was difficult to resist.

Rufous Fantail
I visited the wader roost at Toorbul at high tide late last week and found a single Asian Dowitcher among the hundreds of Bar-tailed Godwits and smaller numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Great Knots. I saw a dowitcher here last January and it has been seen by quite a few observers since at various times of the year; presumably it has overwintered here.

Asian Dowitcher

Bar-tailed Godwits
After Toorbul I moved on to Dowse Lagoon at Sandgate where I saw a Wood Sandpiper and a Pectoral Sandpiper which have been present there for several days.

Wood Sandpiper

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Lewin's Rail at Yandina Creek Wetlands

Broad-billed Ssndpiper
The Yandina Creek Wetlands continue to surprise, with Broad-billed Sandpiper and Baillon's Crake added to the growing list of interesting species found here today, and Lewin's Rail showing nicely.

Broad-billed Sandpiper
Broad-billed Sandpiper
The Sunshine Coast has little freshwater wetland habitat that is suitable for migratory shorebirds, so it was good to see decent numbers of shorebirds at Yandina Creek. About 120 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were feeding among reed stubble on exposed mud along with 4 Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Red-necked Stints, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, 10 Japanese Snipe and best of all, a single Broad-billed Sandpiper - a scarce species in south-east Queensland. The Broad-billed was quite distant unfortunately so the images here were the best I could manage.

Marsh Sandpiper
Among other waders, about 70 Red-kneed Dotterels were present. An unusually large number (150+) of this inland species turned up early last year at the eastern extremity of Yandina Creek Wetlands (see here). I thought all but a handful were long gone, but not so.

Red-kneed Dotterel
I staked out a nice-looking piece of mud edge on the fringe of a reed bed. Here I saw 2 Lewin's Rail, with one bird showing well and repeatedly, though typically not allowing itself to be photographed; the image here is from the files.

Lewin's Rail
I also had stunning views of several Spotless Crakes, and saw a single Baillon's Crake - the first record of this species for the wetlands.

Spotless Crake

Buff-banded Rail
Several Buff-banded Rails were patrolling the same stretch of mud.

Little Grassbird
Little Grassbirds were foraging around the reed bed edges.

White-breasted Woodswallow juvenile
A pair of White-breasted Woodswallows were attending two well-developed young.

Site for Lewin's Rail, Buff-banded Rail, Spotless Crake, Baillon's Crake
The Sunshine Coast Regional Council has replied to my submission asking that the privately owned wetlands be acquired and managed as a reserve. The council advised that its reserve acquisition program is being reviewed in the wake of the recent separation from the council of Noosa Shire; the submission would be “kept on file and assessed”. I pointed out that the wetlands are much more extensive and productive than I had previously thought, and suggested that the council survey the area. (Last year, the council rejected submissions that it acquire Lot 2,River Road for a reserve, but we now know that Lot 2 constitutes just the eastern extremity of the wetlands.)

Buff-banded Rail
Full list of bird seen is here.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Feathered Friends hit by Heat Wave and Drought in South-East Queensland

Spangled Drongo
The G20 meeting of world leaders down the road in Brisbane this weekend is under way in near-record temperatures for November in south-east Queensland. Citizens have evacuated the city en masse to avoid the G20 traffic chaos to head here to the Sunshine Coast or to the Gold Coast. The temperature in the garden this afternoon hit 40 degrees Celcius while nearby at Yandina it was 42. How do our avian friends cope?

Little Wattlebird
Not brilliantly, it seems. The day has seen a steady procession of garden birds visiting our two bird baths. Some are shown here, their bills open as birds pant to reduce heat stress, in much the same way dogs do. Those visiting today included Rainbow Lorikeet, Willie Wagtail, Little Wattlebird, Noisy Miner, Noisy Friarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Lewin's Honeyeater, Magpie-lark and Spangled Drongo 

Pied Currawong
The water in the bird baths is so warm that the visitors do not partake in their usual indulgence of bathing. Some of the usual rules are broken. The birds are uncommonly accommodating each other; species that usually would be intolerant of others appear not to mind sharing a drink in these harsh conditions.

Noisy Friarbird

Red-necked Avocet
A few days ago I visited the Lockyer Valley, west of the Sunshine Coast, which is experiencing a prolonged dry spell. It was interesting to compare the birds with those seen in the valley last January  (see here). Many of the wetlands which had plenty of water 10 months ago are dry now. However, some of the species that have moved into south-east Queensland from the inland over the last 2-3 years continue to be present in numbers at those wetlands still with water, such as Lake Galletly. Here, Red-necked Avocet and Pink-eared Duck were common.

Whiskered Tern
Of interest was an abundance of Whiskered Tern. I saw a total of about 3000 at several sites, with good numbers of birds feeding not just on the shrinking wetlands but over dry paddocks.

Little Corella

Pink-eared Duck
Black Kites were abundant during my last visit but were  uncommon this time, though still about. Australasian Shoveler was present in small numbers at Lake Clarendon, where large numbers of Little Corellas were nesting in nearby eucalypts. A few Blue-billed Ducks were also on Lake Clarendon, though a little distantly. Another denizen of the inland, Hoary-headed Grebe, was common in January but on this visit I saw just two – on the dam on Colquhoun Road near Gatton.

Little Friarbird
White-winged Triller
Still, some birds were breeding nicely including Purple Swamphen and Dusky Moorhen. White-winged Triller and Little Friarbird were common. A party of 10 Zebra Finches, a rare species in south-east Queensland, was seen west of Helidon feeding roadside with Double-barred Finches.

Monday, 10 November 2014

November Blitz Around the Sunshine Coast

Eastern Grass Owl near Yandina Creek Wetlands - Picture by Hendrik Ferreira 
A highly productive one-and-a-half days and an evening of birding around the Sunshine Coast with Hendrik Ferreira and Anton Booysen yielded a veritable spray of goodies including Eastern Grass Owl, Sooty Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, Marbled Frogmouth, Australian Little Bittern, Eastern Ground Parrot, King Quail, Beach Stone-Curlew, Wandering Tattler, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Black-necked Stork, Barred Cuckoo-shrike, White-eared Monarch, Dusky Honeyeater, Crested Shrike-tit, Fairy Gerygone, Paradise Riflebird, Noisy Pitta, Russet-tailed Thrush, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Crested Shrike-tit, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Little Grassbird and Spotless Crake.

White-eared Monarch
We kicked off at dawn on Day One at Little Yabba Creek, Charlie Moreland Park, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. We soon had a pair of White-eared Monarchs flitting about us side-by-side with Spectacled Monarchs and Black-faced Monarchs.

Paradise Riflebird
A small party of Dusky Honeyeaters foraged on the rainforest edge and a male Paradise Riflebird checked us out. Russet-tailed Thrush, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, White-headed Pigeon, Topknot Pigeon and Australian Logrunner were among other birds present. A Noisy Pitta performed well along a nearby rainforest circuit track. Crested Shrike-tit and Pale-yellow Robin were also here.

Noisy Pitta
We moved on to open eucalypt forest and vine scrub at Moy Pocket, nestled in a loop in the picturesque Mary River. A pair of Barred Cuckoo-shrikes were co-operative and Fairy Gerygone – a species recorded from the hinterland only in relatively recent times - was vocal and easy to track down. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos entertained as they tore into the flowers of a Silky Oak.

Fairy Gerygone
Another patch of vine scrub near Imbil was our next destination. Here we found plenty of evidence of Black-breasted Buttonquail including fresh platelets but no birds were seen in the time we had available. While having lunch at Imbil, we were startled when a large vehicle came rolling down a hill, crossing the road and knocking down two wooded rail barriers before smashing into a tree a few metres from us, just before it would have otherwise plunged into Yabba Creek. It had been left in neutral with no hand brake on - an unusual diversion from birding.

Runaway Vehicle at Imbil
We headed east to the coast to Alexandra Headland where we found a nice pair of Wandering Tattlers on the sea edge along with a Pacific Reef-Egret. We continued to the mouth of the Maroochy River, spotting a Beach Stone-Curlew feeding on crabs on the seaward side of Goat Island.

Wandering Tattler
Large numbers of Chesnut Teal were at the Maroochydore sewage treatment plant. At Bli Bli Wetlands, a Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove put on a fine show in the afternoon light while we took time out to photograph more common species such as Leaden Flycatcher.
Leaden Flycatcher
Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove
Our final call for the day was a property adjoining the Yandina Creek Wetlands. I reported last week (see here) about some nice waterbirds at this site. This newly discovered spot was again impressive. A Black-necked Stork waded in the shallows as 15 or more Spotless Crakes and quite a few Little Grassbirds called from flooded grasses.

Black-necked Stork
At dusk, a lone Australian Little Bittern was calling vigorously from across a marsh. Then a Large-tailed Nightjar started calling before we saw it briefly flitting about. The nightjar had been roosting in thick vegetation lining a canal which cuts through the wetlands. This species was known to occur as far south as the Rainbow Beach area, 80km north of here, but was found nearby at Bli Bli Wetlands on October 20 this year by Russ Lamb and Pieter de Groot; these two records constitute a southward extension of range. See ebird list here.

Eastern Grass Owl - Picture by Hendrik Ferreira
As the sky darkened and a full moon began to rise, a pair of Eastern Grass Owls appeared overhead in response to playback, putting on an excellent display. We saw and heard the nightjar as we left the wetlands. These latest records strengthen the case for the wetlands to be acquired and managed as a reserve by the local council (see here for how you help this campaign).

Marbled Frogmouth
We headed west to the Blackall Range and Mapleton National Park, where we soon had a Sooty Owl calling in wet sclerophyll forest. We saw the bird in flight twice before finally cornering a brief but good view of it perched. Not much later we had a pair of Marbled Frogmouths calling on both sides of the road, with the female eventually showing nicely. See ebird list here. So we had Sooty Owl, Eastern Grass Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar and Marbled Frogmouth (along with Southern Boobook and Tawny Frogmouth) within a couple of hours.

Birding wallum heath near Noosa
We had just the morning on the second day for birding so it was off for an early start in a patch of wallum heath near Noosa. We flushed a female King Quail, always a difficult species, before our main target – an Eastern Ground Parrot – flew up obligingly from the heath. White-winged Triller was calling and a squadron of White-throated Needletails flew overhead.

Tawny Grassbird
The water level of Lake Macdonald was very low and not much was about although Red-kneed Dotterel and Whiskered Tern were nice. A Grey Goshawk was on a tree nearby where a pair raised a single young last year. Latham's Snipe and Tawny Grassbird were about at the Cooroy sewage treatment works, and Little Lorikeet here was unusual.

Cotton Pygmy-Goose
We found another Black-necked Stork on a farm dam near Eumundi and a pair of Cotton Pygmy-Geese on a second dam nearby. All up, an eventful couple of days.  

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Yandina Creek Wetland and its Wonderful Waterbirds at Risk of Destruction

Black-necked Stork
Lewin's Rail, Spotless Crake, Black-necked Stork, Red-necked Avocet and Mallard were among a fine array of waterbirds seen in a couple of hours recently in an extensive area of newly discovered wetland and grassland at Yandina Creek on the Sunshine Coast that is threatened by development. Other good birds included Latham's Snipe, Red-kneed Dotterel, Whiskered Tern, Glossy Ibis and Little Grassbird.

Spotless Crake
I had previously birded the far eastern edge of this wetland, where interesting species included Australian Spotted Crake, Australian Painted-Snipe (see here) and Black-tailed Native-Hen (and here). However, I was unaware at the time that the wetlands and grasslands extended some distance inland on private property that is not accessible to the public.

Red-necked Avocet
In one morning at the newly discovered wetland area I heard 5 Lewin's Rails calling from 3 sites and saw 1 bird briefly. I heard no fewer than 12 Spotless Crakes and saw 3, including some nice close views. A fine male Black-necked Stork was strutting its stuff. Also present were 4 Red-necked Avocets, a species I had not seen previously on the Sunshine Coast. Of further interest was a free-flying female Mallard. This bird clearly was not domesticated or semi-domesticated, unlike the great majority of Mallards encountered in south-east Queensland; genuinely wild, feral Mallards are rare in SEQ, unlike in the southern states.

Red-kneed Dotterel
About 20 Red-kneed Dotterels were present; this visitor from the inland has been in this area for a couple of years now. Little Grassbirds were calling commonly, side-by-side with Tawny Grassbirds. A flock of 50 Whiskered Terns was noted and at least 20 Latham's Snipe were flushed.

Royal Spoonbill
Three Glossy Ibis were seen along with good numbers of more common species such as Royal Spoonbill and all four species of egret.

Yandina Creek Wetlands looking west to Mt Ninderry
These wetlands have been created by tidal flooding from the Maroochy River and associated canals due to changes in the water table caused by many decades of sugar cane farming, which has long stopped at this site. Although created artificially, the wetlands and grasslands provide excellent habitat for waterbirds. Their preservation and management would help atone for the widespread destruction of wallum heath and natural wetlands around the Sunshine Coast.

Yandina Creek Wetlands looking east to Mt Coolum
I have had discussions with the Sunshine Coast Regional Council about the prospect of the council acquiring some of the land in this area (Lot 2 River Road) which is presently up for sale. Another area of bird-rich wetland adjacent to Lot 2 was bulldozed for a housing block redevelopment (see here). The council was reluctant to  purchase the property, in part because it was concerned that waterbirds could interfere with air traffic at the nearby Sunshine Coast Airport, where a new east-west runway is to be built. However, the airport has confirmed there is no risk of bird strike.

The council advised me in a letter dated August 12, 2013 that although the land had habitat value for some bird species, priority was given to acquiring properties that exhibited "significant environmental values and are in highly strategic locations". How the council came to the conclusion that these wetlands were not of significant environmental value and were not in a  "highly strategic" location was not explained.

The new airport runway will destroy large swathes of this human-modified grassland-wetland habitat along with remnant wallum heath that is home to a tiny population of endangered Ground Parrots. The Yandina Creek Wetlands, however, are well to the west of the extensions. In view of the recent discoveries, I have asked the council to think again and it has agreed to reconsider a fresh proposal which now covers 200 hectares over three properties. If the land is not protected, it will inevitably be redeveloped. Sugar cane was last grown on the land 10 years ago when it was sold by its farmer-owner to development interests.

Anyone who feels the same is asked to email the council here at, asking that their concerns be drawn to the attention to the mayor, Councillor Mark Jamieson. Refer to Nomination R100 under the council's Environment Levy Land Acquisition Program.

A full list of birds seen today can be found here. Since writing this post, further significant bird discoveries have been made in the wetlands: Eastern Grass Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar - a southern extension of range for this species - and Australian Little Bittern (see here) and Broad-billed Sandpiper, with Lewin's Rail - a threatened species - found to be quite common (see here).