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.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Sunshine Coast Pelagic Trip July 2017

Brown Skua
Brown Skua and a fine suite of cetaceans were the highlights of the July 30, 2017 pelagic trip off Mooloolaba on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. The outing was significant because it was the first time we had used the 17m Crusader 1, and all aboard as we departed Mooloolaba Marina on a crisp winter morning at 6.45am were looking forward to experiencing the new boat. We weren't to be disappointed.

Crusader 1
The forecast did not bode well, with a breeze struggling to reach 5 knots as we departed the river mouth and headed out to sea on a swell of under 1m. It was very pleasant weather (surface temperature 22 degrees at 9am) but the winds were not going to be of the right speed and direction to net a substantial avian hall.

Brown Booby
On the way out we had a small group of Hutton's Shearwaters and a smattering of migrating Humpback Whales. We stopped for whales and a Brown Booby perched on a trawler before reaching the shelf beyond the Barwon Banks 32 nautical miles offshore in 320 fathoms (26.4419S; 153.444E) at 9.15am. Without stops, it would have taken us a bit over 2 hours to reach the shelf.

Brown Skua with Providence Petrel victim

When he stopped at the shelf we saw a Brown Skua feeding on what we eventually identified as a Providence Petrel. The petrel had evidently been freshly killed as the skua was vigorously removing dry features from its victim. 

Brown Skua with Providence Petrel victim
The skua allowed close approach and we saw it a couple more times while we were out on the shelf. Brown Skua is a rare winter visitor to south-east Queensland so this sighting was welcome.

Providence Petrel
We began laying a berley trail and soon the first live Providence Petrel put in an appearance. This species and Crested Tern were the only birds we saw regularly out on the shelf as conditions remained stubbonly mild with very little wind.

Mammals were more co-operative. We had several pods of Risso's Dolphins, some of which showed nicely close to the boat.

Risso's Dolphins
Risso's Dolphins
Of particular interest was a small pod of Dwarf Minke Whales, another rare visitor to south-east Queensland waters. One of the whales surfaced briefly very close to the boat.

Dwarf Minke Whale
A single Tahiti Petrel put in an appearance – another winter record for a tropical species that is not supposed to be in these waters in winter. We saw a single Wilson's Storm-Petrel and a couple more Hutton's Shearwaters out wide.

Tahiti Petrel
Along with a few Australasian Gannets as we drifted eastwards for 7 knots before turning around in 470 fathoms and heading back to port. The wind picked up at this point to 10-12 knots, but from the north - not the best wind direction for seabirds in this part of the world. The Brown Booby was still at its trawler roost and the Humpbacks were plentiful if distant. We arrived back in port at 3.45pm.

Australasian Gannets
The boat fulfilled our most optimistic expectations in terms of creature comforts. Although 23 birders were on board, there was plenty of room to move about on deck and on the bow. Everyone was able to find a seat; hand rails were a welcome change; and an extensive roof provided shelter from the elements. Viewing conditions for seabirds from the deck were excellent. Most importantly, the deep-keeled, high speed monohull made for a smooth ride out and back. The boat is operated by Sunshine Coast Afloat, a Sunshine Coast family company with a solid reputation in this business. 

All aboard
PARTICIPANTS: Greg Roberts (organiser), Toby Imhoff (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand), Grayham Bickley, Todd Burrows, Chris Burwell, Jo Culinan, Jan England, Cecile Espigole, Alex Ferguson, Hendrik Ferreira, John Gunning, Nikolas Haass, Christian Haass, Bob James, Matt Latimore, Elliot Leach, Andrew Naumann, William Price, Jim Sneddon, Raja Stephenson, Ged Tranter, Paul Walbridge, Jamie Walker.

BIRDS Total Number Seen (Maximum seen at one time)
Tahiti Petrel 1 (1)
Providence Petrel 10 (2)
Hutton's Shearwater 5 (3)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
Brown Booby 1 (1)
Australasian Gannet 6 (2)
Brown Skua 1 (1)
Crested Tern 60 (20)
Silver Gull 1 (1)
Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin 4 (2)
Risso's Dolphin 25 (7)
Humpback Whale 20 (3)

Dwarf Minke Whale 3 (2)

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Camping at Murphy's Creek, Crows Nest, Blackbutt

Red-rumped Parrot
We've returned from a 5-day camping trip through the Upper Lockyer and South Burnett regions of south-east Queensland. We had 2 nights at Murphy's Creek Escape, a pleasant place amid rocky terrain in open forest below Toowoomba; 1 night in Crow's Nest Falls National Park, where fine scenery is worth a visit; and 2 nights in the spacious and pleasant showgrounds in Blackbutt.

Murphy's Creek
Honeyeaters were the go at Murphy's Creek and along the back roads to nearby Helidon. Three species of Melithreptus were together here - White-throated, White-naped and Brown-headed.

White-naped Honeyeater
Fuscous Honeyeater and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater have patchy distributions in Queensland but both were common along the road into the camping ground.

Fuscous Honeyeater

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater
Also occurring in mixed flocks in several places were the three south-east Queensland species of fairywren - Superb, Variegated and Red-backed.

Red-backed Fairywren

Superb Fairywren

Variegated Fairywren
A feeding station in the grounds attracted Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Common Bronzewing, Crested Pigeon and Pale-headed Rosella.

Common Bronzewing, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Rainbow Lorikeet
A distant Collared Sparrowhawk put in an appearance.

Collared Sparrowhawk
A Tawny Frogmouth roosting on the ground was unusual.

Tawny Frogmouth
Speckled Warbler, White-throated Gerygone and Buff-rumped Thornbill were among other nice birds in the ironbark forest.

Buff-rumped Thornbill

Speckled Warbler

White-throated Gerygone
A pair of Plum-headed Finches were encountered along a back road to Helidon. Double-barred Finches were common throughout.

Plum-headed Finch

Double-barred Finch
The camping ground at Crows Nest was a little crowded but in nice bushland, though birds were thin on the ground.

Crows Nest National Park

Crows Nest National Park

 I saw a total of 4 Brush-tailed Rock-Wallabies: 1 at the falls and 3 at the lookout. It's encouraging that the populations here and at the nearby Perseverance Dam are thriving, having survived the depredations of foxes that have wiped the species out of much of its original range.

Brush-tailed Rock-Wallaby

Brush-tailed Rock-Wallaby
Blackbutt has some good stands of dry rainforest and open forest around the town. Red-rumped Parrot and Jacky Winter were in the showgrounds.

Jacky Winter

Red-rumped Parrot
A party of Apostlebirds was in the town.

I searched without success for Black-breasted Buttonquail in the nearby Yarraman State Forest - the hotspot for this species until the discovery of Inskip Point. I did however find several areas with plenty of recent platelets. We also had a look at Clancy's and Emu Creek camping areas in Benarkin State Forest, where a showy Crested Shrike-tit put in an appearance.

Crested Shrike-tit
A Brown Goshawk was seen on the way home near Kilcoy.  

Brown Goshawk

Friday, 7 July 2017

Europe Part 8 - Birding Norway's Mountains (Eurasian Dotterel, Great Snipe, Capercaillie); Sight-seeing the Netherlands

Eurasian Dotterel
After pottering around Oslo and the southern Norway coast (see following post) we headed north to Lillehammer, where we looked without success for Pine Grosbeak, making do with more numerous fare such as Meadow Pipit and Common Redstart, along with some fine alpine scenery.

Common Redstart
Mountains above Lillehammer
We continued north to the Knudsen family's lovely cabin in the Synnfjell Mountains in the district of Nord-Torpa, stopping to look at a pair of Slavonian Grebes with chicks. 

Slavonian Grebe 

Nord-Torpa cabin

Like so many cabins dotting the length of Scandinavia's Langfjellat mountains, the roof is adorned with a flourishing garden of wildflowers (abundant at this time of year), grasses and small shrubs. The weather was chilly but pleasant and sunny.

Great Tit
A pair of Great Tits were feeding a clutch of young in a nest-box on the cabin wall.

Pied Flycatcher
Other birds about the cabin included Pied Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Eurasian Siskin  and Willow Tit. Glenn was fortunate to see a Long-eared Owl.

Eurasian Siskin

Spruce forest, Nord-Torpa
The forests in this part of the world are mostly spruce with pockets of treeless moor. 

Siberian Jay
Walking the road through the forest behind the cabin I found Siberian Jay on four occasions, with a maximum of 3 birds at one spot.


I stumbled upon a female Capercaillie being highly protective of a couple of chicks by the road. I also saw a single female Black Grouse briefly. A juvenile White-tailed Eagle overhead was unexpected.

White-tailed Eagle
I had seen Brambling just once before so it was nice to track down a singing male.

We drove further north to the spectacular Valdresflya Plateau where plenty of snow was about, notwithstanding the time of year.  On the way we were surprised to find a Hawfinch by the road.

This beautiful area is a mosaic of highland moors, snowfields, lakes, forest patches and mountains.



At Valdresflya it took a couple of hours to track down a prime target – Eurasian Dotterel, which nests on the rocky mountain hillsides. An adult showed nicely as it watched over two small chicks.

Eurasian Dotterel
Other birds in the area included the distinctive regional race of Bluethroat, Shore Lark and Western Yellow Wagtail. A Wood Sandpiper in breeding plumage was nice.

Wood Sandpiper
Also an Arctic Tern along one of the lake shores.

Arctic Tern

Ketil sets up the hides at snipe lek
We moved on to the Hersjomyrin Nature Reserve at Storhosaestren where Ketil knew of a Great Snipe lek. Here we set up two tent hides and waited until “sunset” at 11pm. Night at this time of year consists of 3 or 4 hours of dim twilight, and that is when some birds such as snipe are most active.

Great Snipe displaying at lek - pic by Ketil Knudsen

Great Snipe
We weren't to be disappointed. We had 15-20 Great Snipe in full swing at the lek with a cacophony of bill-snapping, whinnying and whirring noises. They shut up when a Short-eared Owl soared overhead. A Merlin also flew over while Red Grouse was heard. Mammals in the area included Mountain Hare and Field Vole.

Common Snipe - Pic by Ketil Knudsen
On the way back in the semi-darkness we encountered Eurasian Woodcock and Common Snipe (with a noticeably longer bill than Great Snipe) on the road.

We had a couple of Moose cross the road.

We're extremely grateful to Ketil and Bente Knudsen for their warm generosity and excellent company during our 10-day visit to Norway. Then it was on to The Netherlands, the last of 12 countries we visited during our 6.5-week sojourn to Europe (the others were, in order: Italy, Vatican City, Monaco, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway).

Haarlem & Great Church of St Bavos
St Bavos concert

Haarlem's Adrian windmill

We stayed near Amsterdam in the historic city of Haarlem with the tower of the Great Church of St Bavos shadowing our comfortable apartment; the constant ringing of its 5-tonne bell offered mixed blessings. The huge pipe organ in the church was played by Mozart when he was 10.

We checked out the sites of Haarlem and Amsterdam including, in Haarlem - Teyler's Museum, the city's bustling Saturday market in the town square and the Adrian windmill. We enjoyed the splendid mosaic of canals in both cities.

Amsterdam - marijuana shop


In Amsterdam we saw Westerkerk, Hermitage and the Auschwitz Memorial. We contemplated the plates along canal footpaths commemorating the Jewish people taken from their homes and murdered by the Nazis. The whiff of marijuana in crowded Amsterdam back streets was in the air.

Amsterdam - Jewish people taken from their homes and killed by the Nazies WWII
Near Haarlem we did not expect to find a large area of natural wilderness along the coast in Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. Fallow Deer were common here.

Zuid-Kennemerland National Park