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, 22 December 2017

Aleutian Tern for Christmas

Aleutian Tern
Aleutian Tern had long been high on my wishlist. I expected to see them in Anadyr on our Russian Arctic cruise and was not happy to learn that one was hanging around the ship in the harbour before we left, but nobody bothered to announce it.

Aleutian Tern
So when Liam Murphy reported last week that he had found as many as 14 Aleutian Terns at Old Bar on the NSW Central Coast, there wasn't too much decision-making to be made. Liam's find is quite extraordinary. He found the birds at the same spot this time last year but their identity was not known until we was trawling through photographs two months ago. The species is a scarce visitor to Indonesian waters but had not been recorded in Australia previously.

Aleutian Tern
I was daunted by the prospect of a 9.5 hour drive to Old Bar. So I flew to Sydney from Sunshine Coast Airport, caught the train to Gosford and hooked up with my friend, Kathy Haydon. From there it was a 3-hour drive to Old Bar, where we arrived at 4pm, bumping into the first of quite a few twitchers to be encountered over the next couple of days.

Aleutian Tern

Aleutian Tern
We walked 1.5km north to the end of the fence that marks the Little Tern breeding area, then a short distance inland to sand bars where the terns gather. We quickly found a ground of 9 Aleutian Terns gathered together, with a tenth bird nearby. The birds were readily approachable, with a bit of knee-deep wading required, and appeared to be quite settled.

Aleutian Terns
Occasionally some of the birds would fly a short distance and regroup, sometimes in the company of Common Terns, Little Terns and Crested Terns. Often however they would roost separately from other terns.

Aleutian Tern
We booked an overnight "family cottage" in the pleasant Lani's Caravan Park, a short distance from the site; it could have slept 4 people for $120 per night. We returned early the next morning and found just 2 Aleutian Terns. They were by themselves initially before joining a larger tern flock. The flock was put to flight by an ultra-light plane and when the birds resettled, the Aleutians were nowhere to be seen. We learned from others that they did not return until late-morning. This seemed to be a pattern: 1 to 3 birds are there in the early morning before heading out to sea, with the bigger group returning towards the middle of the day. Most of the terns appear to hang about for much of the afternoon.

It was low tide on our first visit and high tide on our second. Conditions were pretty much the same, as the sand bars are separated from the sea except during very high tides. Access initially was a shorter distance from south-west of the bars but the NSW authorities requested beach access to minimise disturbance to the Little Tern colony. I checked the lay of the land from the other side of the inlet and thought it would not make any difference; the shorter route in fact is probably less disturbing to nesting birds. And walking the beach at high tide means dodging 4-wheel drive vehicles.

Common Tern
About 20 Common Terns were present. After some initial sorting it was easy to distinguish them.


A nice gathering of Sanderlings was a bonus.

Red-necked Stint
Other shorebirds included Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Red-capped Plover (nesting), Grey-tailed Tattler, Red-necked Stint, Whimbrel and Eastern Curlew. This stint looked particularly interesting.

Little Terns were resplendent in breeding plumage. Elist.

The terns at Old Bar

Friday, 15 December 2017

Catching up with John Young

I caught up today for a pleasurable few hours in the Sunshine Coast hinterland with bush naturalist extraordinaire John Young.

John is something of a legend in the birding community. It is well-known that he and I have had our differences over the years, but with the benefit of hindsight, everyone acknowledges they might have done things differently in times past. We move on. Whatever our differences, I've always regarded John as arguably Australia's most skilled bush naturalist. His uncanny ability to track down birds in difficult circumstances is widely acknowledged. John is doing some excellent field work these days as a senior ecologist with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

Pale-vented Bush-hen
What we've always had in common is a passionate concern for the environment and a keen interest in birds and other wildlife. Today we listened as a pair of Pale-vented Bush-hens called from flooded grassland near Wappa Dam; a third bird called across the road. One bird was seen briefly; the image here is of another bush-hen seen nearby last year.

Australasian Figbird at nest
While we chatted in the Wappa Dam picnic ground, John spotted no fewer than four nests being attended by Australasian Figbirds in the surrounding trees.

Great Crested Grebe
The resident Great Crested Grebe pair were in full breeding plumage and showing well.

Comb-crested Jacana
As were a few Comb-crested Jacanas.  Earlier today I found this White-eared Monarch in rainforest at nearby Cooloolabin.

White-eared Monarch

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Hervey Bay & Boonooroo – Dec 2017

Pacific Swift
It was time for what has become an annual camp-out in the Hervey Bay area. Waterways and wetlands were full following heavy rains recently. At Arkarra Lagoons, 3 pairs of Magpie-Goose had goslings in tow and another 6-8 pairs were on nests. Other birds included Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Fairy Gerygone and Nankeen Night-Heron. Arkarra Lagoons ebird list.

Of interest at Pt Vernon was a flock of 70 Pacific Swifts hawking for insects along the shoreline, with a handful of White-throated Needletails in the mix.

Pacific Swift

Pacific Swift
A Rainbow Bee-Eater here made short work of a dragonfly.

Rainbow Bee-Eater
Good numbers of Greater Sand-Plover, Lesser Sand-Plover and Pacific Gold Plover were present at the high hide roosts at The Gables and nearby Gatakers Bay.

Greater Sand-Plover, Lesser Sand-Plover, Pacific Golden Plover
A mixed group of Wandering Tattler and Grey-tailed Tattler were together on the rocks at Gatakers Bay.  Pt Vernon ebird list.

Wandering Tattler
I visited Garnetts Lagoon with local birder John Knight but high water levels meant not much of interest was about, other than a couple of Brown Songlarks.   A large colony of waterbirds was nesting on a lagoon in Ann Street, Urangan, near the Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens. All 4 species of egret were nesting along with a few Little Pied Cormorants and Little Black Cormorants, and large numbers of Australian White Ibis.

Cattle Egret

Intermediate Egret & Cattle Egret

Little Egret
After moving on to Maryborough, Brown Songlarks were present also along Dimond Road, where a pair of Pale-vented Bush-hen were flushed from flooded grasslandVery high king tides (3.6m) made the going tough at the shorebird roosts of Boonooroo and Maaroom. Large numbers of Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit were present as usual but there was no sign of the Asian Dowitchers which I found during my last two visits. Boonooroo ebird list.

Bar-tailed Godwits

Eastern Curlews
A flock of 50 Marsh Sandpipers were at Maaroom.

Marsh Sandpipers
A male Shining Flycatcher was a nice find in mangroves near the jetty at Maaroom. Maaroom ebird list.

Shining Flycatcher

Shining Flycatcher