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, 9 March 2019

Hervey Bay-Maryborough, March 2019

Beach Stone-Curlew at The Gables

A fair haul of birds from a five-day visit to the Hervey-Bay Maryborough area on the Fraser Coast included Lesser Crested Tern, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Wandering Tattler, Beach Stone-Curlew, Black-necked Stork, Brolga, Brown Songlark, Square-tailed Kite and Shining Flycatcher.

On what has become something of an annual pilgrimage to the Fraser Coast, we camped for two nights in Maryborough and three nights at Hervey Bay. Maryborough is a good base from which to check out the shorebird roosts at Boonooroo and Maaroom, which can both be done comfortably around high tide. The first bird I saw upon arrival at Boonooroo was a Beach Stone-Curlew.

Beach Stone-Curlew at Boonooroo
Tides in south-east Queensland have been very high of late and so it was during this visit. Many of the large number of Bar-tailed Godwits were in full or partial breeding plumage. This is a reliable site for Grey Plover and about 40 birds were mixed in with the godwits and Great Knots.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Grey Plover & Bar-tailed Godwit

Grey Plover & Bar-tailed Godwit

Great Knot & Bar-tailed Godwit
At Maaroom, Bar-tailed Godwit and Great Knot were again easily the most numerous shorebirds. Among them were relatively good numbers of Curlew-Sandpipers and a few Red Knots and Black-tailed Godwits. A male Shining Flycatcher was seen in the mangroves.

Great Knot & Bar-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit (centre) & Bar-tailed Godwit

Red Knot (centre) & Great Knot

Shining Flycatcher
I checked out the grasslands along Dimond Road, Beaver Rocks, where a few Brown Songlarks were present. A Square-tailed Kite was quartering the woodland in George Furber Park, Maryborough.

Brown Songlark
At Hervey Bay, a couple of high tide roosts around Point Vernon along Charlton Esplanade – particularly around and just south of The Gables, but also the northern end of Gatakers Bay – are always work a look. I saw a Common Sandpiper at Gatakers in the same spot where I have seen one during previous visits. Wandering Tattler and Grey-tailed Tattler were together on the rocks at The Gables, where Ruddy Turnstone was in good numbers.

Common Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Wandering Tattler & Ruddy Turnstone
A Lesser Crested Tern among Crested Terns at The Gables was unexpected, especially at this time of year. Lesser Sand-Plovers were colouring up well and a few Greater Sand-Plovers were there, albeit in much smaller numbers than during previous visits. The second Beach Stone-Curlew for the trip was also seen here.

Lesser Crested Tern & Crested Tern
Lesser Sand-Plover & Ruddy Turnstone

Greater Sand-Plover
I visited Garnett's Lagoon with John Knight, another favourite hotspot. Water levels were low due to a prolonged dry spell over the Fraser Coast. Reasonable numbers of Curlew-Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint were about along with a few Marsh Sandpipers. Best of the shorebirds was a single Wood Sandpiper, seen here during previous visits.

Marsh Sandpiper & Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Two Black-necked Storks were feeding in different parts of the wetland – one immature and the second almost in adult plumage. Two pairs of Brolga were in the area, along with a couple of White-bellied Sea-Eagles displaying nicely. A bedraggled young Water Rat was foraging along the lagoon edge. More Brown Songlarks were seen and heard in the paddocks.

Black-necked Stork


Water Rat

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Changes in status of South-east Queensland birds over 40 years – Part 6, bristlebird to bowerbirds

Eastern Bristlebird

Here is the sixth and final post discussing changes in the status and distribution of birds in South-East Queensland over 40 years between 1979 – when my booklet, The Birds of South-East Queensland, was published - and 2019. Some changes are doubtlessly influenced by an increased number of observers and technological advances (especially with playback) but many can not be explained by these factors. These posts cover only those species where a significant change has been noted over the intervening period. See here for Part 1 (emu to storm-petrels) and here for Part 2 (boobies to hawks); Part 3 (brush-turkey to terns) is here; Part 4 (pigeons to nightjars) can be found here; Part 5 (lyrebirds to emu-wren) is here.

Eastern Bristlebird. Listed as “rare” in 1979 and confined to montane heath and open forest glades adjacent to rainforest above 600m in the Border Ranges and at Cunningham's Gap. The bird was subsequently discovered in the mid-1980s in the Conondale Range, extending its range north. However, the Conondale Range population is now almost certainly extinct. It has also since disappeared from Cunningham's Gap and Spicer's Gap. Probably less than 20 bristlebirds survive in a couple of remote sites in the McPherson Range. Attempts to boost populations by releasing captive bred birds appear to have failed and the species is facing extinction in Queensland. Reasons for its demise include introduced predators and habitat mismanagement.

Western  Gerygone
Western Gerygone. In 1979 there was a single report from Esk which was unsubstantiated. There have since been a handful of confirmed sightings from the Lockyer Valley and the Murphys Creek area, and one bird turned up in Brisbane.

Fairy Gerygone
Fairy Gerygone. The species was considered “uncommon” in 1979 and restricted to northern parts of the region in areas such as Gin Gin and Round Hill Head. We know now that it occurs as far south as Bribie Island, with a single record from Brisbane. It is a not uncommon resident in suitable habitat around the Sunshine Coast and hinterland. This vocal gerygone would scarcely have been overlooked in these areas in the past, so it clearly has expanded its range southward.

Buff-rumped Thornbill. Thought to be “moderately common” in 1979, this is another species that likely has declined due to the destruction of its woodland habitat. It could best be regarded as uncommon and localised today.

Red-browed Treecreeper
Red-browed Treecreeper. In 1979 it was considered “moderately common” in wet sclerophyll forest at higher altitudes. Like several other birds at the northern end of their distribution in South-east Queensland, it has suffered a steep population decline; it may be the case that climate change is implicated in these declines. The treecreeper was once easy to find in the Blackall and Conondale ranges, for instance. It is now very rarely seen in that region and is gone from once reliable sites. The bird continues to frequent sites in the D'Aguilar and McPherson ranges where it has long been known but generally can be regarded today as scarce and localised.

Regent Honeyeater
Regent Honeyeater. The species was thought it to be “rare” in 1979 and that remains the case. However, while fair-sized flocks were once found occasionally in places like Storm King Dam, most records in recent years are individual vagrants in scattered sites including Ipswich, Rainbow Beach and Stanmore.

Black-throated Finch
Black-throated Finch. The race cincta was regarded as “rare” in 1979 in lightly wooded country, with records from the Gin Gin area. The bird is now almost certainly extinct in the region - another likely casualty of the clearing of woodland.

Nutmeg Mannikin
Nutmeg Mannikin. This introduced species was “common” in 1979 but it has declined significantly and is now uncommon and localised.

House Sparrow. An introduced bird that was “very common” in 1979. It remains moderately common locally these days but is much less numerous.

Common Starling. Another introduced species to have declined. It was “very common” in 1979 but is today much less numerous, being generally uncommon.

Common Mynah
Common Mynah. An introduced species that has increased substantially in numbers. It was thought to be “uncommon” in 1979, being largely restricted to northern parts of the region and the Lockyer Valley. It is today common and widespread throughout the region.

Satin Bowerbird. It was described as “common” in 1979. Although remaining moderately common at higher altitudes, today it is much less numerous in the foothills and lowlands, being scarce in many places where it was formerly common.

Satin Bowerbird

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Changes in status of South-east Queensland birds over 40 years – Part 5 , lyrebirds to emu-wren

Southern Emu-wren

This is the fifth post demonstrating changes in the status and distribution of birds in South-East Queensland over 40 years between 1979 – when my booklet, The Birds of South-East Queensland, was published - and 2019. Some changes are doubtlessly influenced by an increased number of observers and technological advances (especially with playback) but many can not be explained by these factors. The list covers only those species where a significant change has been noted over the intervening period. See here for Part 1 (emu to storm-petrels) and here for Part 2 (boobies to hawks); Part 3 (brush-turkey to terns) is here; Part 4 (pigeons to nightjars) can be found here.

Albert's Lyrebird. Described as “moderately common” and localised in 1979, it is perhaps better regarded as uncommon today. Its distribution remains unchanged. A small, isolated population continues to hang on at Mt Tamborine against expectations. The bird is otherwise restricted to the upland rainforests of the McPherson and Great Dividing ranges. I commented in 1979 that there was “considerable evidence” suggesting the species once occurred in the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. There is today a good deal more scepticism about that evidence. With extensive areas of suitable habitat remaining, especially in the adjoining Conondale Range, it is difficult to accept that the species would not still be present, had it occurred in the region historically.

White-backed Swallow
White-backed Swallow. This bird was “uncommon” in 1979 but known to nest annually in several places, including along the Brisbane River. Today it could better be described as a rare visitor; it no longer nests at sites it had been using for many years.

Russet-tailed Thrush
Bassian Thrush & Russet-tailed Thrush. In 1979 these birds were not recognised as separate species. Bassian Thrush is an uncommon resident in rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest in the higher parts of the McPherson and Great Dividing ranges. Russet-tailed Thrush is a common resident of rainforest throughout the region but is absent from the higher parts of the McPherson and Great Dividing ranges; it undertakes some movement to lowland scrubs in winter. There is a narrow band of overlap between the two species. Reports of Bassian Thrush from Mt Glorious in the D'Aguilar Range are contested.

Hooded Robin
Hooded Robin. Described as “uncommon” in 1979 and known from several scattered areas throughout the region. It appears to have declined, probably due to destruction of its open woodland habitat, and today could be considered rare in SEQ except in the Granite Belt, where it is uncommon.

Olive Whistler
Olive Whistler. This species in 1979 was “rare” and confined to the highest parts of the McPherson Range. That continues to be the case but it clearly has declined along with several other species that reach their northern distributional limit in South-East Queensland. While always scarce, Olive Whistler would once be found reliably during a visit, for instance, to Mt Bithongabel. That's not the case anymore; years have gone by without a sighting. While the bird has been recorded in recent months, its numbers must be perilously low.

White-eared Monarch
White-eared Monarch. In 1979 it was considered “uncommon to rare”. We now know it to be more numerous than was thought previously. It can be described as moderately common to uncommon, primarily in lowland rainforest and vine scrub.

Satin Flycatcher. In 1979 it was described as an “uncommon” summer visitor. The species in fact occurs in the region as a scarce transitional visitor during its annual migration to and from the south-eastern states.

Shining Flycatcher
Shining Flycatcher. It was thought to be “rare” in 1979, with sightings from the Noosa River, Bribie Island and Fraser Island. It is known now to be a moderately common to uncommon resident in mangroves as far south of Pumicestone Passage. It is a scarce visitor south of Bribie Island. It may be one of several northern species to have extended its range southwards.

Spotted Quail-thrush. This species was described as “uncommon” in 1979. It is perhaps better considered rare these days. While it continues to occupy sites near Brisbane where it occurred 40 years ago, it has inexplicably vanished from other places, especially around the Sunshine Coast and hinterland.

Spotted Quail-thrush
Grey-crowned Babbler. Thought to be “moderately common” in 1979, this is another species that has suffered a population decline, probably due to destruction of its open woodland habitat. It could be regarded today generally as uncommon; it no longer occurs in many of its former haunts.

Superb Fairy-wren. Considered in 1979 to be “moderately common”, occurring as far north as Eidsvold. The species has increased in urban areas around Brisbane and the Gold Coast, where it is common. While the bird occurs throughout western parts of the region north of Brisbane, it is oddly absent from the coast and hinterland north of the city.

Grey-crowned Babbler
Southern Emu-wren. In 1979 it was “rare” and known only from the coastal heaths of the Noosa Plain, Cooloola. That hasn't changed. What has changed is that the birds are no longer threatened with plans to destroy the heath for pine plantations, as was the case in 1979; its habitat is now World Heritage-listed national park. Notwithstanding the presence of plenty of suitable habitat, the bird has not been recorded elsewhere in South-East Queensland. A distance of about 400km separates the Cooloola birds from the nearest population to the south, at Evans Head in NSW.

Superb Fairywren

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

New England National Park - February 2019

Spot-tailed Quoll

We had a pleasant camp-out by the Styx River, at the entrance to New England National Park, in September 2015. This time we opted for a four-night stay in The Residence, one of two very reasonably priced lodgings operated by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service at Banksia Point, 1km before Pt Lookout in the national park. It's a beautiful spot, with the lodgings set amid a glorious assortment of Nothofagus trees, wet sclerophyll forest and montane heath.

Nothofagus forest, Banksia Point

The Residence, Banksia Point
Our priority was to find a Spot-tailed Quoll. This species is known to visit the lodgings in search of hand-outs but a sighting is by no means guaranteed. Entries in the visitors' book signalled it is not encountered far more often than it is. We looked hard, day and night, but did not see a quoll until the last morning as we were preparing to depart, when a large male appeared on the verandah.

Spot-tailed Quoll
The animal was skittish and soon disappeared under the verandah floorboards. Eventually it reappeared and climbed a few metres to the fork of a tree, where it sat nonchalantly for another half-hour or so, evidently hoping for a feed, until we left. This was a thrill as it's only the third time I've encountered Spot-tailed Quoll in the wild (the other sites being near Boonoo Boonoo in NSW and Mt Bithongabel in Lamington National Park, Queensland).

Spot-tailed Quoll under verandah
Worryingly, however, this quoll had a clearly dislocated lower jaw. How this injury came about is anyone's guess: it could have been injured in a fight with another quoll, hit by a car, or kicked by someone it approached too closely. I've written to the NSW NPWS suggesting they consider veterinary treatment for the animal.

Spot-tailed Quoll
The second stand-out critter for the area was Superb Lyrebird. The lyrebird is common here and largely indifferent to people. In light rain or mist (we had a mix of fine and damp weather) it will patrol the open areas around the lodgings. Two males were displaying near the house during our visit; this would be the beginning of the nesting season. One bird in particular was quite approachable and I managed a short video and a few images of it displaying - something I've tried without success to do in the past.

Superb Lyrebird

Superb Lyrebird display
Superb Lyrebird display
Flame Robin is another nice bird that's quite common in the area. They were about the lodgings and up the road at Pt Lookout.

Flame Robin
Olive Whistler was heard a few times and one bird was seen briefly skulking in the undergrowth. The Pt Lookout area was previously a major site for Rufous Scrubbird, but I'm not aware of any records for many years. During this visit there was not a whisper. It's curious that Olive Whistler has largely disappeared from higher parts of Lamington (Qld) and Border Ranges (NSW) national parks, where they were sympatric with the scrubbird. Yet the scrubbirds are still at these sites – the reverse of the situation in New England National Park.

Olive Whistler

We went downhill from Banksia Point to the Styx River where we were surprised to flush a female Red-chested Buttonquail twice from well-grassed open woodland. Less surprising but always nice to see were a party of Red-browed Treecreepers nearby in a patch of thick forest. Striated Thornbills were foraging in the same area and a couple of Forest Ravens were seen.

Red-browed Treecreeper

Striated Thornbill
Other critters about the lodgings included Bassian Thrush (common), Swamp Wallaby and Eastern Water Skink.

Bassian Thrush

Eastern Water Skink

Swamp Wallaby
On our way home we checked out the delightful Ebor Falls in Guy Fawkes National Park.

Ebor Falls