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, 26 May 2017

Europe Part 1 - Wandering Rome and the Vatican

Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam - Sistine Chapel
Our 6-week visit to Europe kicked off with a 5-night stay in Rome following a tortuous 27 hour flight via Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam. We booked an apartment through AirBnb in Lazio, a short distance from the CBD and just outside the city's ancient walls. Over the next few days we checked out the traditional sites around Italy's capital and the Vatican City.


Top of the list was the Colosseum. No need here for explanatory notes; a spectacular sight but cause to contemplate the senseless waste of huge numbers of people and animals in the arena.

Roman Forum

Palatine Hill
The Roman forum and Palatine Hill were next on the list. The pictures speak for themselves. Other sites seen in Rome included the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the lovely Villa Borghese with its huge parklands.

Altare Della Patra


Trevi Fountain
The Vatican didn't disappoint. Coping with vast hordes of tourists was taxing but the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum, Vatican Gardens and St Peters Basilica were checked out.


Mural in Vatican Museum

Statue in Vatican Museum
Top of the cultural icons were Michelangelo's extraordinary fresco paintings in the Sistine Chapel and his Pieta statue in the basilica.

Pope's Swiss Guards

Julius Caesar - Vatican Museum

Pieta - St Peters Basilica
Lots of fun drinking and eating in many of the huge array of wine bars and restaurants around the university area of Lazio.

Rome from atop Spanish Steps

City wall near our apartment

Friday, 19 May 2017

Freckled Duck at Lake Macdonald

Freckled Duck

This morning I found a Freckled Duck on Lake Macdonald on the Sunshine Coast. The bird was seen from the hide on Grange Road among a large flock of Hardheads. The numbers of Hardhead (estimated 500) was unusually large for the region. These images are poor because the bird was distant and it was raining and overcast.

Freckled Duck & Hardheads
Freckled Duck is a rare visitor to south-east Queensland and was not known from the Sunshine Coast until 2 birds were found in another section of Lake Macdonald at the Noosa Botanical Gardens in 2013. The species had not been recorded in the region since then.

Buff-banded Rail
A Buff-banded Rail was obliging along the path to the hide.

Wandering Whistling-Ducks
Groups of Wandering Whistling-Duck were at both Grange Road and the Noosa Botanical Gardens.

Sacred Kingfisher
Elsewhere, this Sacred Kingfisher was feeding on a crab at Pt Cartwright.

Spotted Pardalote

Striated Pardalote

Spotted Pardalote and Striated Pardalote are both active in the home garden.

Sunshine Coast Canelands Subdivisions Under Fire

Pic SCD By Warren Lynam

Media coverage today following my recent complaints about subdividing the Maroochy River canelands.

SUNSHINE COAST DAILY 19/05/2017 By Bill Hoffman

SUNSHINE Coast Council has started action against two subdivision developments on cane land north west of Bli Bli after complaints from an environmentalist battling to save key habitat for rare native bird species.

Monday, 15 May 2017

New Charter Boat for Sunshine Coast Pelagics

Crusader 1
I'm pleased to report that we will be trialling a big new boat for pelagic birding trips off Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. We will be able to take up to 23 people in what would be the largest and most comfortable boat doing pelagic birding charters in Queensland waters. The deal I have hammered out gives us 5 hours out on the shelf during a 9-hour day trip at reasonable cost. We'll have a huge deck, plenty of seating, hand rails and roofing for protection against the elements. The deep-keeled, high speed monohull will permit a relatively smooth ride, allowing us to go out in wind speeds of up to 25 knots at least, reaching the continental shelf in as little as 2 hours.

Ship layout
Many people are aware of the difficulties we've faced in the six years since I've been operating pelagic trips off the Sunshine Coast. Quite a few folk early on opted out of further trips because they thought conditions were too cramped on board, or that there was a lack of seating, or that the absence of hand rails was unsafe. Later, we had problems with reliability when prebooked trips were cancelled, or most recently when promised supplies of berley repeatedly failed to materialise. Also, the small boat meant we could not go out if anything much in excess of 15 knots was forecast, and as it was a catamaran, it could be pretty uncomfortable out there even in a relatively mild swell.

The new boat is Crusader 1, a deep-keeled, high speed Westcoaster designed for rough weather: 55ft long, 18.5ft wide, a draft of 2.1m and weighing 21 tonnes. It is more that twice the size of the boat we used previously. The main deck has a 3m boardroom style table with 6 seating pods, each designed to seat up to 4 people, with extra seating at the back of the deck. The cabin has a 4-person dining area. The water exhaust is dry-stack so the boat is quiet and the impact of diesel fumes on passengers is minimised.

Red-footed Booby, seen on our last pelagic 
There will be access to the bow deck up front as well as the expansive rear deck. There are solid hand railings all around the deck. A sea anchor will allow us to adjust our drifting speed in accordance with movements of birds at the back of the boat. Other bits and pieces include drinking water on the main deck, a rest area for anyone who is seasick, and a separate toilet for ladies. Apart from the skipper we will have a deck hand to help disperse berley. A good supply of berley is incorporated in the deal. I've had a good look over the boat and am most impressed.

Accommodation for six people on board will allow us in time to undertake 2-3 day charters out wide to explore the Coral Sea.

However, as this is a much bigger operation, we will need bigger numbers of people to make it work. For the boat we had been using, we needed a minimum of 13. For this boat, we will need a minimum of 17. The boat can take up to 23 passengers so hopefully nobody should be on a waiting list.

We had been paying $120pp. The cost now will be between $110pp and $140pp, depending on how many people we get. We had previously paid cash on the day but now, payment will need to be in advance, refundable if you are forced to withdraw with reasonable notice.

The operators, Sunshine Coast Afloat, have won multiple tourism awards and their charters are in high demand, so they are able to offer these trips only on a Sunday - not Saturday when we have previously run charters. If forced to cancel due to weather (which would be infrequent given the boat's greater capabilities) we would postpone to the following Sunday, or the next available Sunday.

My intention is to run these trips about once every two months, but we will do a trial run to see how we go with the inaugural charter in terms of attracting sufficient numbers of people; that's the biggest challenge facing this new venture. So the inaugural trip will depart Mooloolaba Marina at 6.30am on Sunday, July 30, returning at 3.30pm. Please email me ( if you can make it. I will be overseas from early next week until early July but contactable while away by email. No payments would need to be made until after my return in July.

POSTSCRIPT 16/05/2017

I thought we might be battling to get the numbers but I've been quite stunned by the response. The 23 spots for the inaugural July 30 trip were quickly taken up and there's a waiting list already for this trip. We will see how our initial trial run goes but it bodes well for the future. All going well, I'll set down dates for the 12 months ahead after the July 30 charter.

UPDATE 17/05/2017

Due to the high level of interest in this boat we have scheduled a second charter for Sunday August 27. Please let me know if interested.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Camping at Noosa North Shore

We braved some lousy weather for a 3-day camping trip to Noosa North Shore, staying in the council-owned caravan park by the sea. We've stayed here a few times previously; this part of the world will one day be discovered by the tourism industry but in the meantime, it's a gem of a spot.

Bush Stone-Curlew
A pair of Bush Stone-Curlews were present around the camping ground.

With Pacific Black Ducks
As were the very tame Pacific Black Ducks which have been behaving this way for years.

Brahminy Kite
Brahminy Kites were also approachable.

Cooloola Coloured Sands

Cooloola Coloured Sands
We took a 45km drive in the new 4-wheel-drive Isuzu up the Cooloola coast to Double Island Point, admiring the coloured sands which thankfully survived attempts in the 1970s to destroy them by the sand miners who laid waste to so much of South-East Queensland's offshore islands.

I took the kayak out to the Noosa River estuary at high tide. I managed to drop my Leica ultravid binoculars in the salt water; luckily they are waterproof. Of interest was a Sanderling in nice fresh plumage. This species occurs occasionally further north at Inskip Point but is very scarce about the Sunshine Coast.

Sanderling & Red-capped Plover
It was hanging out with Red-capped Plovers and nearby was a small group of Double-banded Plovers. The only other waders present were a few Pacific Golden Plovers, Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits.
Double-banded Plover
 I found a single Beach Stone-Curlew on the main island behind the river mouth. This area is closed to the public during the bird's nesting season and can generally be accessed only by boat. So both stone-curlews for this trip.

A few Mangrove Gerygones were on the island.

Mangrove Gerygone
The only terns seen were a couple of Gull-billed and a fair flock of Cresteds.  Ebird checklist.

Gull-billed Tern